In the hours before news broke of an ongoing investigation into potential child sex trafficking involving Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Trump-loving congressman was quietly telling confidants he was ready to leave Capitol Hill behind. His safety net of choice? A lucrative job as a pro-MAGA pundit on far-right cable network Newsmax. That thirst for celebrity from Gaetz, who has empathically denied any wrongdoing and says he is being blackmailed by a former federal prosecutor, would be scandalous if the GOP hadn’t already become the political equivalent of a TikTok house for publicity-hungry conspiracy theorists and sex pests.
A grudging few years of public service is the entry fee for young Republicans aiming for the real prize of celebrity within the right-wing media. Freshman Reps. Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene are bumbling their way through ineffectual careers in Congress while burnishing their media bona fides. Benghazi conspiracist and former Rep. Trey Gowdy walked the same path to his wildly profitable new life at Fox News.
The Republican Party’s twisted cinematic universe doesn’t care about legislating—in fact, its new role as a pundit-printing machine survives only if our government is kept artificially gridlocked by ever-escalating GOP political stunts. That behavior earns prized bookings on Sean Hannity, but it’s also putting the most corrosive elements of American politics in charge of public discourse. That’s a terrifying prospect for democracy.