McCarthy booted from House speaker, Trump gagged. The Republican Party is an unserious mess.

Former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was booted from his position Tuesday by hardcore MAGA members of his own party, so let’s quickly dispense with any illusions that America presently has two functioning political parties.

There is the Democratic Party, which holds the presidency and the Senate, which just helped McCarthy pass a stopgap funding bill to keep the government from shutting down and whose House members stayed united in supporting the GOP-led motion to kick McCarthy to the curb.

And there is the Republican Party, whose House Members are clearly engaged in a civil war between far-right extremists and what passes these days for moderate Republicans, with “moderate” meaning “slightly less extreme.”

Republicans were ousting their own speaker and sending the House into disarray while Trump was targeting an innocent law clerk and sitting in his own fraud trial, again giving the field of other, not-indicted GOP presidential primary candidates zero oxygen.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walking from chambers after being voted out as Speaker of the House on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walking from chambers after being voted out as Speaker of the House on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Kevin McCarthy's dream of being House speaker vanished in a poof of MAGA hysteria

As McCarthy was seeing his life dream of being House Speaker blown up by Rep. Matt Gaetz, a living caricature of a Florida Republican, the GOP’s leading presidential primary candidate, Donald Trump, was in a New York courtroom where he’s on trial for fraud.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks to Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the House Chamber during the fourth day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is meeting to vote for the next Speaker after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to earn more than 218 votes on several ballots; the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot.

That alone would make one think, “Hmmmm, this party seems a bit of a mess,” but it’s only the tip of the Trumpian iceberg the Republican Party’s Titanic has rammed.

Donald Trump posts fabricated claim targeting fraud judge's clerk

Before lunch Tuesday, Trump posted a fabricated claim on Truth Social that the clerk for the judge in his fraud case had an affair with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer when she was 16. Trump provided a link to the clerk’s Instagram account as well as her name, writing: “Schumer's girlfriend is running the case against me.”

October 2, 2023: Former U.S. President Donald Trump (C) attends the start of his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in New York City. Former President Trump may be forced to sell off his properties after Justice Arthur Engoron canceled his business certificates and ruled that he committed fraud for years while building his real estate empire after being sued by Attorney General Letitia James, who is seeking $250 million in damages. The trial will determine how much he and his companies will be penalized for the fraud.

That wholly false claim stemmed from a story on a long-since-dead conservative satire site. After lunch, the judge issued a gag order forbidding any of the parties in the case from making comments about anyone on his staff, saying about Trump’s post: “This morning one of the defendants posted on (a) social media account a disparaging untrue and personally identifying post about a member of my staff.  Although I have since ordered the post deleted and apparently it was, it was also emailed out to millions of other recipients. Personal attacks of any member of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate and I will not tolerate them.”

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So that’s a good look for a party’s leading candidate. And let’s not forget the 91 state and federal felony charges Trump is facing in four other cases, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and falsifying business records.

Stop treating Republicans like they're part of a serious governing party

Still think the GOP is a serious party? Well, don’t forget that Republicans in the House are presently running an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden without a lick of evidence that he did anything rising to the “high crimes and misdemeanors” threshold. And regarding that impeachment effort, Gaetz – the Republican who took down McCarthy – referred to it during Tuesday’s debate over the motion to vacate as “failure theater.” So even House Republicans think House Republicans are failing.

Florida representative Matt Gaetz speaks at Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again Rally in Waco, Texas, Saturday morning, March 25, 2023.
Florida representative Matt Gaetz speaks at Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again Rally in Waco, Texas, Saturday morning, March 25, 2023.

What were Biden and the Democrats up to around that time? The administration was announcing that a number of major drug companies like Johnson & Johnson and Merck have agreed to work with governmental officials on lowering drug prices.

Boring, right?

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Look, face facts: the Republican Party is a mess. It’s a collection of unserious people performing for a news network or for an egocentric former president eyebrow-deep in legal trouble.

As debate over the motion to vacate got underway Tuesday, Republican Rep. Bob Good of Virginia said this: “Like so many others, I deeply regret that we are here.”

No kidding, Bob. We regret it as well.

USA TODAY Opinion columnist Rex Huppke.
USA TODAY Opinion columnist Rex Huppke.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gaetz ousts McCarthy as speaker as judge muzzles Trump. GOP is a mess