BEN SHAPIRO (HOST): The first rule of politics is this -- never run directly into a tree while kicking yourself repeatedly in the nuts. Republicans in Congress seem to have forgotten this rule. Two weeks ago, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, along with limelight-seeking compatriots like Representative Nancy Mace, decided it was time to get rid of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. Sure, McCarthy had only been speaker for approximately five minutes. And sure, in that time, McCarthy had defeated Joe Biden in a standoff over a continuing resolution and was preparing to pry concessions out of Senate Democrats that amounted to a cut in discretionary spending plus border funding. But it was time for McCarthy to go. Why? Because of the establishment. That's why.
Now, you may be asking, what is the establishment? It sounds bad. Well, apparently, defining the establishment, it's a little like asking someone to capture the wind in a bottle or to trap starlight with one's hands. Sometimes the establishment means Republicans who are in favor of fiscal responsibility, like that establishment toady Paul Ryan. Sometimes the establishment means Republicans who want to expand the size and scope of government, like that establishment RINO George W. Bush. Sometimes the establishment means Republicans who are socially conservative, like that establishment stooge Mike Pence. Sometimes the establishment means Republicans who are socially liberal, like that establishment pawn Susan Collins. Sometimes the establishment means people who are hawkish on foreign policy, like that establishment dunce Lindsey Graham. Sometimes the establishment means people who are dovish on foreign policy, like that establishment dufus John Huntsman.
Well, the term establishment used to have a meaning -- it used to mean a person with power who is too conciliatory to left-wing positions. But during Donald Trump's presidency, when he was, you know, the actual president, we learned that power had nothing to do with it. Donald Trump, the most powerful person on the planet, wasn't the establishment. During Trump's presidency, we learned that friendliness to left-wing positions didn't make you establishment either. After all, it was Donald Trump who declared that entitlement programs, the single biggest drivers of America's debt, were off the table for discussion. So, what makes someone establishment? Today, the answer, insufficient posturing. That's it. That's, like, the whole thing. Posturing. See, the only way to avoid being labeled establishment these days is to get nothing done but to yell really, really, really loudly, particularly about the establishment. To be anti-establishment is to complain about losing elections while doing nothing to win them. It's to shout that the game is rigged while refusing to even engage in the game at all. Being anti-establishment has turned into just whining. It's about showing what you're against by posturing and then telling your audience that if you posture theatrically enough, wave your hands around a lot, your opposition will just surrender. Passing legislation? Nah. Recognizing reality? Mm-mm. Doing any of that is surrender to the opposition. Hell, you can even vote with Democrats to take down a Republican speaker of the House with no backup plan, and you will be considered anti-establishment all because you yell about the establishment.
Now, here's the thing, that's fun and games in the commentariat. After all, in my industry, it's easy to remain ideologically pure. The beauty of what people like me do for living is we can speak on what we wish would happen, what the best of all possible worlds would be. We can point out where our politicians are falling short of our principles. We keep pressure on the politicians, that's our job. When it comes to Congress, purism is a recipe for stagnation and disaster. That's because, believe it or not, Americans expect that budgets will be passed. They expect that legislation will be crafted. And if you don't do these things, Americans will put you in the minority status in the halls of power permanently.
Now, because Republicans have to deal with a very slim majority in the House, a Democratic Senate, and Democratic president, any speaker of the House will have to fall short of perfectly performative opposition. Being speaker of a fractious caucus faced with a minority position in the upper chamber and White House necessarily means cutting deals, not just posturing. That was true for Kevin McCarthy. It would have been true of Steve Scalise. It would have been true of Jim Jordan too. If Matt Gaetz suddenly became speaker, it would be true for him as well. Our Congress, though, has now been filled with people responding to the incentive structure created for the commentariat -- get attention and money for posturing, not legislating. You yell about the establishment, i.e., anyone who does anything in Congress, and you win points.
So, according to Matt Gaetz, Kevin McCarthy was the establishment, and that meant he had to be defenestrated in favor of, well, someone, or no one, or maybe someone who isn't no one, we don't actually know, actually, yet. What we do know is that the speaker will not be Kevin McCarthy, he of the 78 percent Heritage Action score. And it won't be Steve Scalise, he of the 82 percent Heritage Action score. Or Jim Jordan, who has the same 82 percent Heritage Action score. Maybe it'll be Tom Emmer, who also has an 82 percent Heritage Action score, but probably not. And it probably won't be Patrick McHenry, who also has an 82 percent Heritage Action score. It won't even be Matt Gaetz, who has an 84 percent Heritage Action score. Actually, it'll probably be no one for a good while longer.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden will work to ram through a one hundred and five billion dollar defense package that includes sixty billion dollars for Ukraine and ten billion dollars for Gaza. All it will take is peeling off a few Republicans to vote with the Democrats. Again, now you know who could have helped stop that? Who could have proposed, say, a single-issue spending bill on foreign policy? A speaker of the House. But we don't have one. But at least the establishment was stopped. That's the important thing. And there's good news -- if Republicans keep losing the way they did in 2018, and 2020, and 2021, and 2022, they're not gonna have to worry about being establishment because they won't have any power at all.
Note that none of this has anything to do with principle. It has nothing to do with conservatism or victory. It has to do instead with applause and cash and fame. But for many people in the Republican Party, that's apparently good enough. It should not be. Republicans can still win. They can still push the ball forward for conservatism, but to do that, they need to think about how to win, not merely how to posture and yell and get on TV. They'll need to stop running directly into trees. If they do not, all they will end up with is a minority position in Congress, a Democrat in the White House, and a terrible, terrible ball ache.