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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Background on McCarthy's Fall

But the vote that empowered Gaetz empowered the new conservative media, too, becoming the latest in a decade-long run of stories about Republican leaders underestimating their insurgents. On One America News, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs condemned the “uniparty” of Democrats and Republicans who’d funded the government without deep cuts; on Steve Bannon’s “War Room,” Biggs and other conservatives who’d deposed McCarthy were saving the country from weak, unserious party leaders.

In the mainstream and older conservative media, McCarthy’s prolific fundraising — he raked in more than $260 million to help Republicans win the House in 2022, including some of the members who ousted him — was one of his chief strengths. Among the newer MAGA personalities, it was a source of deep suspicion and resentment.

The latter ecosystem has grown in influence and audience since Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, which he renamed X; Laura Loomer, an activist banned from the site for much of the Trump presidency, was reinstated last year, and kept her nearly 600,000 followers informed of the donations McCarthy was routing to Republicans like Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, implying that he was buying off support to keep his job.

After Gaetz’s gambit against McCarthy succeeded, his many enemies inside the GOP conference went to mainstream media outlets to denounce him. Gaetz isn’t allergic to that; Republicans have vented all week about outlets giving him so much time when they should be skeptical of what he’s saying. “You all know Matt Gaetz,” McCarthy said, sourly, at the press conference where he confirmed that he wouldn’t try to get the gavel back.

But Gaetz and the rest of the GOP’s rebels kept up a direct line of communication with conservative activists and influencers, who could not be mollified by McCarthy. Not by the impeachment inquiry, which Gaetz and Bannon agreed was set up to fail; not by the threat of retaliation, which they relished, after a 2022 cycle when Republicans who’d defied Trump and voted to impeach him were nearly wiped out. (The two Republicans who voted for impeachment and remain in the House come from states with all-party primaries, not states where only GOP primary voters decide who’s nominated.)

“Rep. Gaetz has always been more in tune with younger audiences, and good with social media, and he often hops on X Spaces with the public,” said Alex Lorusso, who posts across different social media networks as ALX — and was restored to Twitter/X last year after a lengthy ban. “I would describe most of the online action as encouraging him to file the motion to vacate, rather than him having to build support… Republicans will be doing next week what I believe they should have done from the beginning.”