Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Chronicles of Jeff Jackson


Roll Call file photo

I like an email from my Congressman (except, he's not my Congressman at all) that begins like this: "I’m at the airport, waiting to board, trying to escape the snowstorm they say is about to hit D.C. I’ve got drill this weekend with the National Guard, so I can’t afford to get stuck here."

For pacing, for narrative tension, for sharp characterizations and all the other narrative skills of a good story-teller, Congressman Jeff Jackson of the 14th CD could moonlight profitably as a chronicler of his times, a historian in the eye of a historical storm, who just incidentally has the talent to 'splain the inexplicable.

The email I got last Friday detailed the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson as he sweated to pass the third budget extension of this current Congress -- with half his caucus, not just the Freedom Caucus, but some hundred+ Republicans opposing the budget extension Johnson had negotiated with Democrats. Johnson was close to losing a majority of his own caucus, when Jackson says this happened:

(Notably, one member of the majority did the Speaker a favor by switching his vote from no to yes at the last possible moment just so the Speaker could claim that a majority of his party voted for it. I watched the guy get the signal from a member of leadership to change his vote. Then after he switched he got a pat on the back and a fist bump.)

Jackson wrote that the 100+ Republicans who abandoned Mike Johnson knew that every Democrat was voting for the extension and that it would therefore pass without their participation. "They had the luxury of taking the messaging high-ground," wrote Jackson, "voting against it, and casting stones. An age-old political tactic."

Jackson unpacks the education of the Speaker, from Freedom Caucus soldier denouncing the last Speaker for being too weak, to the guy who is the Speaker now and negotiated with Democrats. I consider this piece of Jackson's writing pretty solid political science as well as good story-telling:

The Speaker, as you’d expect, voted in favor of the extension. Because of course he did. He’s the one who brought it to a vote. He understands why it’s necessary, what a shutdown would mean, and the political reality of divided government.

But let’s wind the clock back to our first budget extension vote. The one from last fall. The one that got the old Speaker fired.

We heard a very different tune from our current Speaker on that vote. Not only did he vote against it, but he gave a big speech on the House floor surrounded by other members of the right-flank in which he said… all the same stuff they’re now saying about him.

So either he has suddenly become a completely different person -- he’s not a “fighter,” not willing to make “hard choices,” not “standing on principle,” and all the other stuff he’s being accused of -- or he simply no longer has the luxury of fantasy.

He has actual power, which comes with actual responsibility, and he’s chosen to respect that enough to break with his old buddies and not shut down the government.

"With actual power comes actual responsibility."

 Gonna miss this writer in the Halls of Congress!

No comments: