Over the summer, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida unveiled a curious fundraising strategy. The Floridian told prospective donors in July to think of “how great it will feel when … we make our next Speaker of the House Donald J. Trump.”
The appeal for a donation included a big red button: “Join me: Let’s get Trump as Speaker.”
Yesterday, as Forbes reported, the far-right congressman went a little further.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said Tuesday he’s spoken directly with former President Donald Trump about installing Trump as House speaker if Republicans win control of the chamber in the midterms, reviving an idea he pushed over the summer that was largely dismissed by all but the most extreme right fringes of the GOP.
Responding to a question from a Capitol Hill reporter, Gaetz said he not only supports the idea of electing Trump as Speaker, he’s also spoken directly to the former president about the idea. The congressman would not, however, elaborate further.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes added on Twitter soon after, in reference to Republicans’ chatter about making Trump Speaker, “They’ve floated this a bunch and it’s usually taken as a troll, but it will be absolutely become a very real thing, I think.”
This is very much in line with my own thinking. Circling back to our earlier coverage, it was Steve Bannon — who used to advise the former president, and who benefited from a presidential pardon after his first federal indictment — who helped get the ball rolling on this earlier this year, touting a scenario in which House Republicans win back the majority and elect Trump as their new Speaker. This is technically possible: Under House rules, members can elect anyone as Speaker, not just sitting members.
Under the fanciful hypothetical, once Trump held the gavel, he could start exacting revenge against those who defeated him, launching investigations into imagined scandals, and even initiating impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
In June, the former president himself was asked about the idea and replied, “That’s so interesting…. Yeah, you know it’s very interesting…. It’s very interesting.”
Chatter in conservative media soon followed. A few weeks ago, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — Trump’s fourth and final right-hand man in the West Wing — also talked up the idea. “I would love to see the gavel go from Nancy Pelosi to Donald Trump,” Meadows told Bannon. “You talk about melting down, people would go crazy!”
At a certain level, it would be a drama worthy of Shakespeare if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, after all of the sycophantic support he’s offered Trump in the hopes of advancing his own personal ambitions, failed to get the job he wanted because the former president took it for himself.
But in all likelihood, the entire scheme is extraordinarily unlikely. For one thing, there’s no guarantee the GOP will take back the House. For another, if Republicans succeed in claiming a majority, it’s impossible to imagine McCarthy voluntarily standing aside and giving up the position he’s wanted for years.
What’s more, it’s an incredibly difficult and time-consuming job, which Trump would absolutely hate.
That does not mean, however, that the chatter is irrelevant. Much of the political world has largely assumed that the 2022 midterm elections would be the first cycle since 2014 in which Trump wasn’t directly relevant. The louder the conversation about him possibly eyeing the Speaker’s gavel, the more it’ll seem as if Trump is effectively on the midterm ballot.
Indeed, as Gaetz, Meadows, Bannon, and others keep this strange fire burning, it seems almost inevitable that some congressional Democrats will tell voters, “A vote for my opponent is a vote to put Donald Trump in Congress’ most powerful job.”
Similarly, it may soon become inevitable that GOP candidates will be asked an awkward question: “Would you consider Trump for House Speaker?”
I wonder how they’d respond — and how the former president might react to their answers.