John Krull

John Krull

Amid the clown-car demolition derby Republicans conducted to determine the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity did an interview with that renowned deep thinker, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado.

Hannity, along with more than 200 House Republicans, wanted U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, to be speaker. Boebert is part of an alt-right gang of 20 Republicans who wanted to prevent McCarthy from prevailing just to show that they can.

Boebert voted for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio — another Einstein — in early ballots in the speaker’s contest.

With Hannity, though, she suggested she might nominate former President Donald Trump for the post instead (Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, did that in the 11th round of voting Thursday.) Through a quirk of the rules, the speaker doesn’t have to be a member of Congress.

Hannity was flabbergasted.

“Is this a game show?” he fumed.

The question flustered Boebert.

“No, no, no,” she sputtered.

As she does with so many things, the congresswoman got that wrong.

Yes, yes, yes, it was a game show.

The fact that figures such as Hannity and Boebert are in positions of prominence and authority was proof of that. They, along with the slow-motion implosion of the House GOP caucus over the speaker showdown, are products of a long-running conservative crackup.

Not long ago, Fox News settled a lawsuit with the family of the late Seth Rich, whom Hannity had defamed repeatedly, for a massive sum when it became clear Hannity would have to testify under oath. Requiring Sean Hannity to tell the truth was something the cable channel needed to avoid at all costs.

Chances were, Hannity might not even know how to do it.

Boebert began her rise as a public figure when she began to carry a gun. She told people she did so because a man was “beaten to death” in a fight just outside the restaurant she and her husband own.

Almost none of that story is true. The man engaged in a fight many blocks from where her restaurant is, ran a long distance to get away when he was losing and died, a full block from Boebert’s place of business, from a methamphetamine overdose.

Both Hannity and Boebert live and thrive in a world in which the truth is an obstacle, not a virtue. These are not serious people. They could not survive in any environment in which either facts or integrity matter.

But they’re perfect for a political party that turned its leadership over to a former reality TV star who has made a career of ducking creditors and selling more whoppers than Burger King.

Donald Trump was the embodiment of conservatism’s run away from reality, its adoption of perpetual petulance as a political platform.

Once upon a time, American conservatism held at its core a set of principles — belief in smaller government, personal liberty, the value of both institutions and traditions and a strong leadership role for the United States around the world.

Now, for self-proclaimed “conservatives” such as Hannity and Boebert, the movement is largely about “owning the libs.”

And when the roster of those considered “libs” comes to include figures such as former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and — in Boebert’s eyes, anyway — McCarthy, it becomes clear their animus isn’t a matter of ideological differences.

No, they’re just raging against anyone who has ever read a book to the end or can follow a line of thought to its logical conclusion.

The problem for the Republican Party is that, in a country created by a devotion to a set of ideas, shared principles are the glue that holds things together. Without those principles, there’s no coherent center for the party or the movement.

That is why the relatively simple process of selecting a speaker turned into the equivalent of chimps at the zoo flinging stuff on the walls of their cage.

It’s also why a plausible alternative to McCarthy never emerged. No one sane would want to try to lead such a group.

Such a meltdown is the predictable result of a movement that has come to value spectacle over measurable achievements, histrionic gestures over actual accomplishments.

What we saw in the House — the people’s chamber — was a game show, not a government.

Not a good game show.

Not an entertaining game show.

But a game show, nonetheless.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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