The Depressing State of House Republicans

We all suffer if the the unserious have power.

Photo by SLT

This week, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Jim Jordan (R-OH)-led House Judiciary Committee. The NYT reports, House Republicans Criticize F.B.I. in Contentious Hearing.

Committee Republicans, led by the chairman, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, treated Mr. Wray as if he were a hostile witness — repeatedly interrupting his attempts to answer their rapid-fire queries with shouted rebuttals. Most sought to portray the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, and Mr. Wray, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, as a political tool of the Democrats.

Time and again, Mr. Wray, a registered Republican, rejected accusations that he had sought to shield President Biden or his son, Hunter Biden, or that he had targeted Mr. Trump. The F.B.I.’s search of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate last August as agents sought to recover sensitive documents from his time in office, Mr. Wray added, was lawful, restrained and prompted by a court order.

“The idea that I’m biased against conservatives seems somewhat insane to me, given my own personal background,” Mr. Wray said, responding to Representative Harriet M. Hageman, a Wyoming Republican who unseated Liz Cheney last year, as she claimed that he had perpetuated a “two-tiered” system of justice. In earlier questioning, he flatly denied that the bureau was being weaponized.

Insane, indeed. In fact, it is an unhinged, cynical undermining of federal law enforcement that is bereft of evidence and with no other obvious goal than scoring partisan political points. It is shamelessly stupid, but exactly the kind of thing we are going to get when people like Jordan are empowered by Republican leadership.

Really, the notion that the FBI has some kind of leftward bias is beyond ahistorical, it is fantastical. And the specific notion that Wray is a tool of the Democrats would be laugh-out-loud funny if this wasn’t such a serious situation.

As Dana Milbank in WaPo In this House of lies, there’s a conspiracy around every corner) notes:

[Mike] Johnson [(R-La.)], the leadoff questioner at Wednesday’s hearing, told Wray about a recent NBC News poll, in which “only 37 percent of registered voters now view the FBI positively,” down from 52 percent in 2018. “That’s a serious decline in the people’s faith, and it’s on your watch,” he told Wray.


The Republicans are well aware of “those numbers” — because they are the ones who assassinated the reputation of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency. Support for the FBI isn’t low among all Americans; it’s at rock bottom among Republicans — only 17 percent of whom had a positive view of the FBI in the NBC poll, compared with 58 percent of Democrats.

Now why would that have happened? Well, maybe it’s because they’ve been fed an endless diet of lies and conspiracy theories about the FBI by elected Republicans and their Murdoch mouthpieces. These lies — and similar ones told about the Justice Department, public health agencies, the IRS and even the military — serve Republicans’ short-term interest of discrediting the Biden administration. But the lies are also destroying the right’s support for the most basic functions of government that even conservatives long supported, such as law and order and national defense. Maybe that’s the goal.

This is, again, a dangerous, irresponsible game. Look, I am not saying that criticizing the government is off the table, far from it! But, it is rather important that criticisms be based in, you know, reality. Further, if members of Congress have real concerns about key bureaucracies like the FBI and the IRS, then they have this thing called “legislation” that they should be proposing to fix those problems. If the problems are real, and the solutions are sound, it is then possible to get other members of the chamber to vote for the changes. Yelling at people and making absurd accusations is not governing. It is a sideshow.

If, however, the goal is to use the legislature to play talk radio host/cable news talking head as a means to fundraise and win primaries, well, that’s a problem for all of us.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:

    Certainly it’s a sideshow, and an embassasing, ludicrous one at that. But it’s a sideshow that entfralls the MAGAs.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    This is the Republican Party today. The last few Republican congress critters who would raise their voices against it are now known as “former Republican congress critters”.

  3. Scott says:

    Is there a rule that witnesses to these committees have to be polite?

  4. Jay L Gischer says:

    I don’t know how they can remain a viable political party with this sort of intra party civil war going on. I see signs of it everywhere.

    I guess there’s a whole lot of inertia there. Digital Equipment Corporation once sustained 10 billion in losses one year, which was more than the entire annual revenue of the company I was working for (in the same market), Silicon Graphics. When I tried to wrap my head around how a company could do that and still remain, I concluded that well, they had been really, really big, and it takes a long time for something that big to die.

    That’s kind of my take for the Republicans. I actually don’t expect the Republican Party to die. We’ve had that happen once, with the Whigs. In the election of 1860, three different Democratic candidates for president got electoral votes. But the Democratic Party is still with us.

    So, I expect something like that to happen, not that it can happen in exactly that way – though I suppose it might.

  5. Daryl says:

    The MAGA party is completely unserious. The only thing that matters to them is getting a hit on the Fox Angertainment Network.
    As for the Gym Jordan clown show, as Ted Lieu said;

    It’s not the FBI’s fault Trump surrounded himself with criminals.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Today’s GOP is little more than an ongoing criminal enterprise, what they are objecting to here is being held to the same legal standards as DEMs.

  7. DrDaveT says:

    But, it is rather important that criticisms be based in, you know, reality.

    Reality is a liberal tool.

    The worst part is, I don’t see a corrective mechanism. Anyone who can swallow what the GQP is currently serving can swallow anything, and there are enough of them that they will continue to populate Congress with a mix of morons and grifters. It is possible to break America, and they are going to do their damnedest.

    (That old Monty Python sketch with election coverage of the Silly Party and the Very Silly Party is no longer funny to me.)

  8. Jay L Gischer says:

    @DrDaveT: The corrective mechanism is this: They go at any and all rivals with no holds barred. That includes former allies. Politics is a team sport, and they are trying to play it as if it were every MAGA for himself.

    It’s going to get uglier still, and do damage all around, but it’s got tons of problems. We’re going to see an election at some point where lots of Rs stay home and don’t vote because they are so angry at other Rs. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think it will.

  9. JohnSF says:

    These are not serious people.
    That they are elected Representatives is a serious problem.

  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    @JohnSF: I dunno. I think they are very serious about feathering their own nests. The GOP has been selling “every person for themselves” for nearly half a century, after all.

  11. al Ameda says:

    Former Rep Liz Cheney of Wyoming took aim at the state of American politics, telling a crowd at the 92nd Street Y in New York that the country is “electing idiots.

    “Look, I think that the country right now faces hugely challenging and fundamentally important issues,” Ms Cheney said during an appearance at the community center, in quotes reported by The Hill. “What we’ve done in our politics is create a situation where we’re electing idiots.”

    Liz knows why we’re knee deep in sewage. The problem is the voters – these idiots didn’t come from spaceships. We (The Voters) voted these morons into office.

  12. Jen says:

    “Reasonable” Republicans complaining that we’re electing idiots gives them distance from this sh!tshow that they don’t deserve. This is very much a “you built this” issue.

    They all need to watch Little Shop of Horrors and pay attention to how Seymour manages Audrey II in the theatrical ending, then take note of the original ending and ask themselves which future they want.

  13. JohnSF says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    As with some of the current crop of ERG Conservatives in the UK Commons, I must respectfully disagree.
    There has always long been a hysterical grifter fringe to the Republicans, and a right-nationalist element among UK Conservatives.
    Or for that matter, the recent Corbynite/Momentum dominance in Labour, though that was shallow (whole book time…)

    The difference is how far they have become dominant in the “party in the country”.
    In neither case is it total; see Republican support for assistance to Ukraine; most Conservative MP’s willingness to defenestrate Johnson.

    But the pandering to an insane base is troubling. A sane right-of-centre party is a good thing, given the improbability left-of-centre political dominance.

    In the UK, a Conservative party that has excluded Dom Grieve, Anna Soubry, David Gauke, Rory Stewart etc is in a bad place.

    In the US, a party whose elected and organizational leaders cannot openly say Trump lost in 2020, and that he was an idiot, is also “a bad thing”.

    How to get past it: dam’fino.
    I’ll just keep on voting Labour.
    But I wouldn’t have minded Soubry or Stewart as PM.

  14. JohnSF says:

    Never seen either all the way through.
    (Reasons. Parties. Alcohols. Substances. LOL)
    What happens?

  15. Kathy says:


    Here’s the Wikipedia link to both endings.

    I don’t vouch for accuracy, as I’ve never seen the movie.

  16. Paine says:

    Post should be titled: “The Depressing State of American Voters.”

  17. Raoul says:

    Wray has been voting for the party that supports these bozos, maybe he needs to reconsider his political views, meanwhile he is reaping what he sowed.

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: And in the original movie version from 1950-mumble, 1960, the last scene shows the plant with new growth in the form of buds presenting the heads of everyone it had eaten. But Seymour apparently did kill it.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Jen: I’m more curious about Audrey II’s political aims. Sure, she wants control and to eat people, but does she want people eaten in a sustainable way?

    Look how many Americans die through gun violence every year. Are the plant overlords going to be better or worse? How much carbon will the plant overlords capture? Do the plants care about culture war issues?

    It might be an improvement.

    I’m just saying that we should keep an open mind.

  20. al Ameda says:


    Post should be titled: “The Depressing State of American Voters.”