The Possible Limits of American Polarization
What Kevin McCarthy's travails tell us.
You do not have to look far for signs of deepening political polarization in the United States. Sure, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is flailing, but that is in part because Florida governor Ron DeSantis is outflanking Trump on the right. From vaccine skepticism to immigration restrictionism to censoring state educators, DeSantis is using his control over state government to fan the flames of the culture wars even more than Trump.
At the same time, we are seeing how the members of the GOP House majority are behaving, and those glimpses are disconcerting. Kevin McCarthy is, at best, a weak king, and so has been working hard to appease the Trumpists on his right flank. As a result, Marjorie Taylor Greene will have a more prominent role in the next session of Congress, and she seems a wee bit dodgy. Unfortunately, she is not the only sitting GOP member of Congress who preferred then-president Trump to declare martial law to prevent Joe Biden’s inauguration.
All of this seems to be of a piece with the idea that the GOP is drifting ever rightward. As more congressional districts are gerrymandered, the pivotal election that matters in each cycle is the party primary, and the candidate who can excite the base is most likely to win that race. Republicans can move further to the right (and Democrats can move to the left). Therefore, despite some surprising midterm results, one could expect a House GOP hell-bent on going to war with Democrats — including the impeachment of Joe Biden.
What if, however, there are limits to polarization?