George Carlin used to do a great bit (almost everything that man did was great!) about words that really don’t belong together like “jumbo shrimp” or “military intelligence”. Add “Republican leadership” to that list. As we stand here today, we can point to the people in the Republican Party whose job titles assert they’re “leaders” in the GOP hierarchy. But, as we see in Russia, one person’s leader is another person’s war criminal. All politicians become politicians because something in them wants to lead the rest of us. But toward what? For whose ultimate benefit? The American ideal is that our leaders should want to lead us toward the best possible statement of American democracy that we can make together. Joe Biden epitomizes that approach to both democracy and leadership. Who on the Republican side of the aisle is the analog? In fact, pick pretty much any elected Democrat (save Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and a handful of conserva-dems in the House) and you’ll get an actual public servant who ran for office with improving the commonweal atop their mission statement.
Pick virtually any Republican – save Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (and both of them still need to answer for all the enabling they did before being overwhelmed by their party’s corruption and treachery) – and you’ll get someone who ran for public office with corruption atop their “to do” list. Enriching themselves and holding onto power permanently (despite being the minority) – those are what Republicans run for office hoping to achieve.
The Republican Party’s actual “Leader” (by title) – Kevin McCarthy – is Ground Zero for Republican Treason. That’s no small accomplishment. On June 25, 2016 – a month before the Republican National Convention made Trump’s nomination official – McCarthy entered a meeting of GOP leaders with “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump!” When McCarthy got a ripple of nervous laughter in response, he doubled down on his assertion: “Swear to God!”, he insisted.
Let’s be clear on what happened in that room. A respected member of the Republican Party’s hierarchy told the rest of the respected hierarchy that he feared their soon-to-be nominee was compromised by a country every person in that room understood wanted to harm us in any way it could. No one there thought “Russia is our friend”. They all knew Rohrbacher was in Russia’s pocket – and they treated him accordingly. And yet… no one there reacted with horror at hearing Trump lumped with Rohrbacher. No one in the room said anything like “Whaaaaat? Kevin – dude, are you sure about that? You better have receipts!” or “Somebody, quick, get the FBI on the phone pronto! We’ve got a patriotic duty and our oaths of office to uphold!”
Instead there was nervous laughter. That’s why McCarthy threw in the “Swear to God!” He wanted the rest of the Republican Party hierarchy to know he was serious about this. Then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan certainly believed him. He quickly stepped forward to head off the conversation. The topic was not going to be discussed any further, he told them. And what they all understood to be true – that “Putin pays Trump”? That terrible secret was going to remain a secret!
No one was going to talk about what they knew. Their silence would prove their loyalty. As Ryan put it, “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.” A real family of what though?
Say it with me, everyone: a real family of traitors.
From that moment on, no one in the GOP can honestly say they were “leading America”. They could say however that they were “leading America astray”. That’s not the same thing of course.
From the top of its food chain – Donald Trump could still be the GOP’s 2024 standard bearer – to the bottom (the one place the Republicans have a deep bench), not a single elected (or unelected) Republican can lay any possible claim to being any kind of “leader” the way the rest of America understands that word.
Guys like Mitch McConnell lead toward the bottom. Mitch doesn’t aspire toward American Greatness, he aspires to enrich himself and his (already mega-rich) white, Christian friends. Scroll through the list of Republicans elected to Congress: Margery Taylor Green? Lauren Boebert? Matt Gaetz? Jim Jordan? Louie Gohmert? Rand Paul? Steve Scalise? Elise Stefaniak? Madison Cawthorne? Josh Hawley? Ron Johnson? Lindsey Graham? None of them has ever visited Leadership’s zip code. Hell, they’ve never been in the same hemisphere as Leadership.
In a very real sense, just about every single Republican IS a “jumbo shrimp”. They’re jumbo in their own minds but shrimps in every other way. The last thing on earth they are would ever be “leaders”.