Monday, July 22
1696986452 252cb5354d79823b06e4ae1d

Opinion: McCarthy flopped, Gaetz mutinied, but blame the chaos on the entire Republican Party

The historic humiliation of Rep. Kevin McCarthy couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.

I’ll refrain, however, from solely piling on the Republican from Bakersfield who’s now, involuntarily, the former speaker of the House, the first in U.S. history to be voted out of the job. Any pile-on for this mess should be Republican Party-wide.

Stipple-style portrait illustration of Jackie Calmes

Opinion Columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes brings a critical eye to the national political scene. She has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

McCarthy’s firing by the House on Tuesday after only nine months, instigated by a mutiny from within his Republican majority, isn’t just the story of a single man’s political downfall. And his nonsensical defenestration — which has thrown Congress into chaos and embarrassed a nation that long prided itself as a global model of governance — isn’t just the work of the eight mutineers led by the insufferably self-promoting Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Instead McCarthy’s fall is a karmic consequence of the fact that he and other Republican “leaders” have presided over the years-long radicalization of their once-proud “small government” party, turning it into a fractious “anti-government” party.

The Republicans’ increasingly rightward evolution, from Newt Gingrich’s revolution of the 1990s, through the tea party movement of the late aughts to the Trump takeover, has led to nothing short of nihilism now.

What does it matter to many Republicans that the House can’t work without a speaker? They no longer believe in government and democracy.

Years of Republicans’ extremist, anti-Washington, Democrat-demonizing rhetoric have spawned a Frankenstein’s monster — their party’s militantly uncompromising voters — that sends conspiracists and flamethrowers to Congress. Those hard-line voters are the power and the money behind the likes of Gaetz and his way-far-right posse.

And don’t be fooled by Republicans who’ve been suggesting since McCarthy’s axing that the extremists in the House are limited to the eight who voted (with the Democrats) to oust him. Among those who supported McCarthy were rabble-rousing Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and (very reluctantly) Lauren Boebert of Colorado, along with others who spend most of their days seeking to wreck the hated government.

Remember, too: Back on Jan. 6, 2021, after insurrectionists had sacked the Capitol, fully two-thirds of House Republicans voted not to certify Joe Biden’s victory, just as the rioters wanted. That’s the ultimate anti-government act: trying to reverse the result of an election.

It was this bent that the new Republican majority brought to power in the House in January. Yet McCarthy further strengthened the nihilists, and weakened himself, by concessions he made over the 15 rounds of voting required for him to win election as speaker. One was a new House rule, all but designed for the attention-craving Gaetz, allowing a single House member to call for a vote kicking the speaker to the curb.

It was only a matter of time.

Add to the mix the Republicans’ undimmed zeal for Donald Trump and antipathy for Biden, and it was as predictable as the former president’s choice of a red tie that these politicians would take the country to the brink of default by resisting an essential increase in the government’s debt limit, and then to within hours of a federal shutdown by opposing a government funding bill.

To do otherwise would amount to good governance, and they couldn’t have that.

In both self-induced crises, McCarthy finally did the right thing. He compromised with Democrats. He recognized, as the nut heads in his party apparently didn’t, that Republicans would pay a high political price for any damage done by a default or a shutdown.

Just how nutty is it that Gaetz and Co. would now sack McCarthy for relying on Democrats to pass legislation? This nutty: They couldn’t have pulled off their coup but for Democrats’ votes.

Here’s another irony: Even as Republicans were warring among themselves and disrupting the government, McCarthy’s supporters were hoping that Democrats — given their party’s penchant for making government work — would bail him out. They prayed enough Democrats would vote “present” or even in favor of the speaker to offset the anti-McCarthy votes.

Yet Democrats’ pro-government bias has its limits. And McCarthy — by pandering to the MAGA extremists, including by reneging on his own debt-limit deal with Biden and greenlighting a baseless impeachment inquiry against the president — had definitely crossed that line.

In no time, Democrats were fundraising off Republicans’ show of governing incompetence. A text to small donors asked for $5 for House Democrats’ campaign committee, to help the party regain a majority in the 2024 elections. “We MUST restore order to the People’s House,” it said.

Let’s hope we get some order well before then. But Republicans remain in charge, even if McCarthy isn’t. Bet on it: Order isn’t likely.


Source link