Article 1, Section 2, states, “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers…” There are no other legal requirements for the position, including age, or actually being elected to anything. For some time in the mid teens, House conservatives actually agitated for Senator Ted Cruz to become speaker. In 2013, former Secretary of State Colin Powell received votes for speaker. In 2015, Sen. Rand Paul got a vote.
Now, in all of American history, the speaker has always been a member of the House. But that’s a norm, a tradition, not an actual requirement. And we all know how much water that carries with both the modern conservative movement and Donald Trump. Zero. And so, a new conservative scheme is born: the drive to make Trump the next speaker. It started with this exchange on wingnut radio:
Speaker of the House Donald Trump? He’s not ruling it out.
The former president called the idea “very interesting” after conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root pressed him Friday to run for a Florida congressional seat in 2022 with the goal of leading a Republican takeover of the House and supplanting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Why not instead of just waiting for 2024, and I’m hoping you run in 2024, but why not run in 2022 for the United States Congress, a House seat in Florida, win big, lead us to a dramatic landslide victory, taking the House by 50 seats, and then you become the Speaker of the House,” said Mr. Root on his USA Network show […]
“You’ll wipe him [President Biden] out for his last two years, and then you’ll be president. Do it! Do it! You’ll be a folk hero,” Mr. Root said.
Of course, Root clearly doesn’t know about the non-requirements to be speaker. Other conservatives do, and they’re starting to talk. One told The Atlantic’s Peter Nicholas, “If 150 members of Congress went to Trump and said, ‘We want you to be our leader,’ I think he’d do it.”
Of course he’d do it! Could there be a better scenario for Trump than to be handed something without having to do a lick of work? It’s his dream come true! And you know who is really excited at this possibility? Steve Bannon.
Bannon unspooled a wild chain of events to me, to explain away that hurdle: Trump would serve only 100 days, setting in motion the Republican policy agenda and starting a series of investigations, including an impeachment inquiry into Biden. Then, Trump would step down, turn the gavel over to McCarthy, and prepare for a 2024 presidential run. “He’d come in for 100 days and get a team together,” Bannon said. “They’d have a plan. That plan would be to confront the Biden administration across the board. I actually believe that there will be overwhelming evidence at that time to impeach Biden, just as they did Trump. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
“On the 101st day,” Bannon added, “he’ll announce his candidacy for the presidency, and we’ll be off to the races.”
Bannon thinks that 1) House minority leader Kevin McCarthy would step aside, even for some time, to hand the gavel to Trump, 2) that Trump would have the votes in the House to win a speaker election, 3) that Trump would have enough of his shit together to put together a team in that short time frame, 4) that Trump would have a “policy agenda,” when they couldn’t even bother to have a party platform at the 2020 Republican convention, 5) that they’d have anything to impeach Biden on with supposed “overwhelming evidence,” and 6) that Trump would willingly hand over the gavel once he had it. Though it is nice of him to admit that Democrats did have “overwhelming evidence” against Trump.
Still, rather than mock this, and it is so eminently mockable, it behooves us to encourage this talk. As I’ve written, midterm elections are almost always referendum on an incumbent president, leading to typical losses.
History says that the party of a first-term president nearly always faces catastrophic loses in Congress in his first midterm election. In the House, the average is an over 30-seat loss. In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attack, 2002 was an exception, so exceptions do exist. Regardless, Democrats face some historical headwinds that are compounded by a reapportionment and redistricting process that favors Republicans, a Senate map that features nearly every single difficult 2020 presidential battleground […] and the systematic Republican effort to make it harder for core Democratic constituencies to turn out and vote.
In a normal year, we’d be talking about how to minimize losses and what a Biden administration might do with Republican congressional majorities. But this isn’t a normal year, and Republicans are doing everything in their power to keep it that way […]
[B]y letting loser Trump call the shots and by letting him insert himself into the political debate, Republicans very well risk turning 2022 into a referendum on … Donald Trump. We already know how those go—they goose the liberal base vote without any corresponding Republican vote unless Trump is on the ballot. And he isn’t.
Keeping Trump front and center in the political debate, along with the conservative movement’s inability to get worked up much about President Joe Biden, 2022 threatens to upend the conventional debate, from a referendum on the incumbent, to yet another referendum on Donald Trump. By essentially putting Trump on the ballot—for speaker of the House—Republicans could give liberals yet another reason to turn out in the numbers they did in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. And without Trump being literally on the ballot, the chances of Republicans turning out the hidden deplorables are dramatically lowered.
Right now, this “Speaker Trump” discussion is floating on the edges of the political debate. But with Bannon on board, it shouldn’t be long before Trump himself is promoting the idea. And from there? Who knows. “Will you vote for Trump for Speaker” could be yet another item on the conservative litmus test, to go with “who really won the 2020 election.”