California Rep. Devin Nunes' decision not to run for re-election to head former President Donald Trump's new social media venture is the perfect summation of the state of the Republican Party. This would only make sense in a climate where a Twitter and talk show provocateur like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — who has been stripped of all her committee assignments — is better known than every ranking Republican with the possible exception of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Nunes is in line to chair the House Ways and Means Committee following an election in which Republicans are heavily favored, and it is practically the house style of every political publication to append the adjective "powerful" to the tax-writing committee. This is a highly coveted chair. Yet it is no longer the primary path to power or influence in today's GOP.
Five years after nominating a reality TV star with no prior political experiences besides writing checks to candidates to be president of the United States — and winning the White House with that candidate — Republicans heed their loudest voices on cable news and social media. It is a trend that has been building for years, when Rush Limbaugh became more influential than your median Republican senator, and is now the unmistakable reality.
Grassroots conservatives feel marginalized in popular culture. No matter how much content they get to share on Twitter or Facebook, when it really matters — in their view, for example, when they could be talking about Hunter Biden's shady business deals in the weeks before the presidential election — they know they can be shut down. They are angry about it. They want leaders who will do something to rectify it.
The conservative anger on this front is justified. But the response has been to retreat further into their own echo chamber and to incentivize angry protests that appear to do little to resolve their grievances, though they certainly feel good.
Perhaps the venture led by Nunes will be different. Though he has no relevant experience, he is a savvy conservative media operator, and he rose to new heights under Trump. Still, this moment is the perfect encapsulation of a party that is now more concerned about sounding off on Big Tech than about big government.