Kevin McCarthy’s election as Speaker of the House took fifteen rounds of voting, the most since 1856, when the 34th Congress was dealing with the dissolution of a national party (the Whigs) and the growing issue of slavery and basic civil rights. Back then, only five years before the Civil War began, it took two months to hand off the speaker’s gavel. “It would afford me far greater pleasure in taking the chair of the House,” said eventual Speaker Nathaniel Banks, “were I supported even by the self-assurance that I could bring to the discharge of its duties — always arduous and delicate, and now environed with unusual difficulties — any capacity commensurate with their responsibility and dignity.”
Speaker McCarthy, whose strengths have never been responsibility and dignity, might want to take note of just how arduous and delicate and “environed with unusual difficulties” his tenure is likely to be. And
he now ascends to the dubious and weakened speaker’s podium no thanks to Colorado's Republican congresswoman: Boebert refused to vote for McCarthy, choosing instead to throw her support behind sexual-abuse apologist Jim Jordan, who approaches governing exactly how you might imagine an assistant wrestling coach would: with performative aggression and the faint whiff of old gym mats. But in this process, even an evil Forrest Gump like Jordan had the sense to not want the speaker’s job and to support McCarthy.
When their Jordan push failed, Boebert and company — mainly talking haircuts unburdened by ethics, like Matt Gaetz of Florida — voted for Byron Donalds, also of Florida; when that move didn’t take, they went with Oklahoma’s Kevin Hern or Arizona’s Andy Biggs. Gaetz voted for Donald Trump in the seventh vote, sort of like that clown in middle school who writes in a vote for Jack Mehoff for class president.
As the meaningless power plays continued, in a rare appearance on MSNBC — the January 4 episode of The Eleventh Hour with Stephanie Ruhle — Boebert was rightfully raked over the hot coals of logic. Ruhle tried several times to argue that Boebert’s numbers didn’t bear out: While McCarthy had 200 votes, Boebert’s crew of political misfits had around twenty at the time. As Boebert continued to display her inability to answer a direct question, Ruhle kept looking off-camera to her right at someone, her head shaking in disbelief. (Welcome to the club, Stephanie Ruhle.)
When Ruhle pointed out what Republican colleague Dan Crenshaw of Texas had said about Boebert —that she was “the enemy” who was only opposing McCarthy for the attention — Boebert attacked Crenshaw for working with Democrats on red-flag firearm laws, saying, “This is just how things operate here.” The red-flag law issue came back at the end of the quarter-hour interview, when Ruhle invited Boebert to return to talk about that issue specifically, correctly stating that it was supported by the majority of Americans. Boebert’s reply was to call either the issue or Ruhle herself “a failure,” followed immediately by a quick false-smile thank-you for having her on. It was yet another moment in which Boebert more closely resembled Regina George than Margaret Chase Smith — which makes sense, because Boebert seems to take pride in knowing a lot about Mean Girls, and not so much about the history of women in conservative politics.
But Boebert received a poor reception even from fellow far-right conservatives. Sean Hannity, the Pied Piper of FoxNews leading all the aged viewers of that network gleefully into the drowning ocean of alternative facts, spanked Boebert live on his “Hot Seat” segment, pointing out the irony of her asking Trump to tell McCarthy that he didn't have the votes and it was time to withdraw when Boebert herself wasn’t taking that advice. “His side has 203, your side has twenty,” argued Hannity. “Why is it his time to withdraw, and not you, when he has so many more votes?” As Boebert responded with more word-salad filibuster, an exasperated Hannity accused her of sounding like a liberal and asked, “Is this a game show?”
A losing game. The maelstrom of ego-fueled political showmanship got so bad that Colorado’s Ken Buck admitted mid-week that the House was in “disarray,” and that Republicans should just adjourn and meet in private. “I don’t know if alcohol will help,” Buck said, “or if we need to bring in a plate of Colorado brownies.”
Maybe someone got baking, because McCarthy was finally elected Speaker of the 118th Congress. When Boebert voted “present” in the fourteenth go-round on Friday night, she got a standing ovation — not for the battle she'd waged, but for her final willingness to surrender to the demands of her ridiculous colleagues so they could get on with their ridiculous work of making the country more ridiculous. To add insult to injury, it still took one more vote to get McCarthy over the top, proving that Boebert wasn’t worth all the attention she’d so insistently cultivated over the week.
Boebert responded with her usual empty bluster, sending out a bombastic press release that suggested what she and others had done was a step toward fixing a broken Congress — when it was really just another way in which the contemporary GOP has been working to break Congress since it decided that a stolen Supreme Court seat was worth more than truth, justice and the American way. Even so, Boebert called it a “massive victory,” which is only true if the conditions of victory are measured solely in media coverage, Google searches and Twitter hits.
And then, true to form, Boebert attempted to close the matter with a logic-torturing tweet. “If y’all thought that was good,” she posted early on January 7, “just wait till we take the fight to Joe Biden and the radical left!”
Despite overwhelming evidence that most of America, even Boebert's small segment, thought it was very much not-good, there’s some hope in all of this for America and Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, which Boebert won by only a few hundred votes in her second race. Namely, that the illogical fights she takes to those with a sincere desire to govern might last only a week before Boebert gives up, votes “present” and pretends to have accomplished something.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.