In Tuesday’s Nevada Republican primary, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was the only candidate running — and she lost to nobody.
More than 47,000 Nevada Republicans took the time to show up at the polls and?cast a ballot for “none of these candidates” rather than vote for her.?Besides the obvious humiliation for Haley, the outcome is a fitting metaphor for the current state of the Republican Party.
The GOP has become the party of nothing: no ideas, no agenda, no accomplishments and no interest in governing the country. Even when given a choice between someone and no one, Republicans picked the latter.
That might seem like a harsh indictment, but consider what took place on Capitol Hill this week. After months of demanding tougher measures from the White House and Senate Democrats on border security in return for passing legislation providing funding to Ukraine, Republicans got what they asked for — and then rejected it.
Usually, when Democrats and Republicans negotiate on immigration issues, the Dems seek compromises on the legal status of undocumented immigrants, and the GOP demands tougher enforcement measures. This time, Dems would have gotten nothing: no help for Dreamers, no amnesty, no pathway to citizenship. They made historic and unprecedented concessions to the GOP, largely in return for creating a legislative pathway on military assistance to Ukraine.
The resulting legislation was one of the harshest immigration bills in recent memory. And yet, within hours of its release, congressional Republicans made clear they preferred nothing.
Republicans have complained about the border crisis — and President Joe Biden’s handling of it — for years. But when faced with the prospects of a bill that would help to solve the problem, the GOP opted to keep the complaint and shelve the solution. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who negotiated the compromise measure, seemed genuinely confused about his party’s bizarre about-face, but the only thing surprising about the outcome is that Lankford didn’t see it coming. The GOP is a party organized around an unending set of grievances.?The political incentive to let problems fester — and use that as a tool to rile up its voters — is much stronger than any desire to solve them.
But even when the GOP does set its sights on something — such as the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — it’s still too difficult for them.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., brought an impeachment resolution against Mayorkas to the floor, a long-sought priority of House Republicans. The vote was completely symbolic. Republicans didn’t even bother to identify a high crime or misdemeanor that Mayorkas had allegedly committed, and there was zero chance that the Senate would convict him. The effort would have gone nowhere, a perfect metaphor for the GOP’s approach to governing. Yet, when the roll call vote was finished, the House was tied 215-215, which means Mayorkas survived his symbolic defenestration.
It’s hard to imagine a more embarrassing outcome for Republicans — except for what took place about 20 minutes later, when the House took up legislation to provide assistance to Israel. That bill also failed, proving that the only thing Republicans do worse than governing is counting votes.
But, then again, accomplishing nothing is par for the course with this Congress. In 2023, the House passed a mere 27 pieces of legislation that became law on 724 votes — making it the least productive Congress of the past decade. By comparison, in 2022, the Democratic-controlled Congress took 549 votes and passed 248 bills.
Among the measures that the GOP can take back to the voters in November are the 250th Anniversary of the United States Marine Corps Commemorative Coin Act and the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023.
But then, “doing stuff” is not really what interests GOP voters. “Stuff to be angry about” is much more their speed. And Republican politicians are catering to their needs.
Back in 2017, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, the policy realm was their proverbial oyster. Did they address the economy, the border, education or health care? Come now. In fact, their major focus on health care was to repeal and replace Obamacare (which they failed to do). And when it came to drafting a replacement measure … we’re still waiting.
Trying but failing to get rid of a major Democratic accomplishment and replace it with nothing was perhaps the most on-brand Republican legislative episode ever.
The major GOP accomplishment of its two years in power was a tax bill that most voters hated and was a gift to the party’s fat cat base. In 2018, Democrats took back the House, which privately must have come as a relief to Republicans because it meant they could go back to their preferred role of complaining about Democrats and not passing laws.
When Donald Trump ran for re-election, the Republican National Committee merely took the previous platform, crossed out “2016” and replaced it with “2020.” Voila!? This year, one would be hard-pressed to find any policy agenda informing Trump’s third run for the White House.
In fairness, obstructing government rather than using it for good is, more or less, the basic ideological credo of conservatism. Progressives are the ones who like to get stuff done. Conservatives like to stand in the doorway and yell, “Stop.”
But this version of the GOP has taken ideological rigidity to an absurd extreme. A smaller government is all well and good, but you still need to do basic stuff like write a budget and address obvious problems,?especially ones you’ve spent years focusing on. But even that is too much for the modern incarnation of the Republican Party, which couldn’t keep the government running or prevent an economic default without plunging the country into near crisis.
Even if they wanted to get stuff done, as the votes in Congress this week suggest, it’s hard to imagine that they actually could. It’s not just that they don’t want to govern; they don’t know how to.
But, again, maybe instead of criticism, we should praise Republicans for acting as pillars of representative democracy. They are simply giving their supporters the nothing they want — and perhaps the nothing they deserve for so consistently re-electing politicians who have no interest in governing.