For Kevin McCarthy, it was always going to end this way. Whether he ultimately attains the Speaker’s gavel or not, McCarthy did what all the cynical, tiger-riding ‘moderate’ Republicans have done since 2015: Abased themselves before a group of people who lack any sense of decency or desire to govern. He also became the very thing that is keeping him from his dream job: A self-interested nihilist will to do and say anything for his own power.
As of this writing, the US House of Representatives has failed to elect a Speaker after taking thirteen votes. New Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has actually received more votes than McCarthy or either of the Republicans’ second-choice options.
So he’s given all he’s got. Kevin, oh Kevin, did you really think the tigers would ever let you run the zoo? Last spring, many of us posited that McCarthy would never become Speaker. Given the dynamics of the 2022 election and Republican gerrymandering, the House GOP was always going to be more MAGA than it was in the last Congress.
That didn’t stop McCarthy from crisscrossing the country and inviting well-heeled donors to $100,000/plate lunches and dinners with the promise that he’d bring ‘normal’ back to the House. His personal super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, raised more than $250 million from 2021-2022 for the sum total of a nine-seat majority and McCarthy’s eternal humiliation.
Last November, though, far from finding an extra 20 ‘moderate’ Republicans to smooth his path to the Speakership, McCarthy came up short. A far cry from the heady days of a 50-60 seat wipeout Kevin hoped for. His conference is indeed more Trumpy, but given its smaller size, the MAGA wing is a more concentrated kind of crazy.
But McCarthy fancied himself a smart fella. At some point in the late summer, he cut a deal with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA.) He’d give her a seat at the grown-up table, and in return, she’d provide votes from the Kooky Caucus. She appeared at McCarthy’s shoulder in September as he attempted to roll out a poor facsimile of Newt Gingrich’s successful 1994 “Contract with America.”
Greene, for her part, is learning the game the hard way. Steps away from real power in the US House, now she’ll be seen as a bad bet by McCarthy and a traitor to “Freedom Caucus” goons like Matt Gaetz and her arch-nemesis, Lauren Boebert. She’s now complaining that no one is negotiating on her behalf. Being the odd man out among so many odd men is quite an accomplishment for ole Marge.
It’s important to remember that the 20 members refusing to vote for McCarthy aren’t conservatives, and they’re not really Republicans. They’re #UltraMAGA. They don’t believe in democracy or decency. They don’t believe in governing. None of the normal business of Congress matters to them. Paul Gosar and his allies are the exemplars, the vanguard of a political movement that wants only power and has no business anywhere near it.
They’re also the most extreme of the 132 Republican members who, on January 6th, 2021, refused to certify the 2020 presidential election for the free and fair winner, Joe Biden. Why is this important? Because it means even if a Republican can ultimately garner the majority of the votes on the floor, more than half their conference will be in the thrall of Trump, the Big Lie, Stephen Miller, and the rest of the America First criminal element.
The first week of January, once again, will be the most consequential of the next two years. At every opportunity, when the Republican Party has had the opportunity to pivot to ‘normal,’ they’ve chosen the opposite path - further into the chaos and the darkness. This will not stop as 2023 unfolds.
For all of us, now, after all this, it is time to understand: The political world we knew is truly gone. It is not coming back. It is essential that everyone understand what Trump and MAGA hath wrought: It is now the game we’re in. Don’t be surprised, don’t be shocked. Accept the world as it is and take action accordingly.