Kevin McCarthy Is Out As GOP Speaker. Who Didn’t See This Coming?
Perhaps the Wall Street Journal editorial board said it best: “Republicans Cut Off Their Own Heads.”
“A band of eight Republicans succeeded in ousting Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker on Tuesday, and we trust they’re happy. They now have the chaos they wanted, though it isn’t clear what else they hope to achieve. Their clever plan seems to be to cut off their own heads.”
One of those eight was Bob Good (R-VA 05), the anti-Covid, anti-vaccine, anti-mask, anti-compromise, and anti-bipartisanship far-right winger in central Virginia who is an embarrassment to the GOP.
What a s**t show in the U.S. House of Representatives from the majority party Republicans. For the first time in history, the Speaker of the House was removed from his position, and it was all orchestrated by the “Freedom” caucus of the Republican Party.
Kevin McCarthy did what he could to hold the GOP caucus together while giving in to demands by the far-right wingers but it was his concessions, especially the rule that allowed one member to bring a vote to remove him as Speaker, that did him in.
McCarthy was the quiet one of the Young Guns who became more public after co-Young Gun House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his reelection in 2014 at the beginning of the rise of the tea party/right wing/racist faction of the GOP in his own first: the first House majority leader to lose in a primary. Unlike McCarthy’s situation, nobody saw Cantor’s defeat coming.
And McCarthy’s footprint grew even more after his other co-Young Gun Paul Ryan decided it wasn’t worth dealing with the crazies and chose to not run for reelection in 2018. His official reason for leaving was to spend more time with his adolescent children but I truly believe he decided it wasn’t worth sacrificing his values in a world of crazies who could never be satisfied.
But perhaps the absence of mentoring or leadership from Cantor and Ryan left McCarthy floundering because his public facade continued changing. Behind the scenes an entirely different narrative was most likely occurring but somewhere along the way his concessions to the far right overtook him. Dems and moderate Republicans felt he betrayed them in his reach for the Speaker position, and he was willing to give the “Freedom” caucus what they wanted in exchange for their vote. He got his wish in January 2023 and became Speaker of the House after 15 rounds of voting.
With the removal rule alone, who didn’t see this coming?
When I was actively involved in leadership of the Virginia Republican Party and the Augusta County Republican Committee, there was a subset of conservatives whose “mission” was to destroy the GOP. They were secretive and exclusive and organized. They spoke of abolishing the Department of Education and other nuttiness that is prevalent in MAGAs and conspiracy theorists to this very day.
I believe what we have seen the past decade is that same faction of the GOP doing exactly what it intended: burn down the party. They don’t care if there’s anything left at the end. If they can’t have all the power for themselves, they will destroy it. Donald Trump has been their best friend by helping with that.
Tuesday’s debacle that ended with the removal of Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House is the latest chapter. As a result, the House is speakerless and they have adjourned for a week to prepare for a new speaker vote on October 11. There is important work to be done for the country including funding the government, a can that was kicked down the road this week and will come due again in 45 days, so let’s hope the GOP elects a responsible and reasonable leader to concentrate on business and not pettiness.
Who am I kidding? Pettiness is all the “Freedom” caucus and allies are interested in at this time in history.
Within Virginia’s Republican congressional delegation, only Good voted to remove McCarthy – Good who is part of that “conservative” group I spoke of earlier. Good, who declared he would never “compromise” by working with Democrats on anything, voted with Democrats to remove his own Republican speaker of the House.
Think about that.
Good has no idea how to govern for all his constituents -nor does he care – and is solely concerned about his own small circle of followers who made him the congressional nominee that was only possible because a GOP convention was held and not a primary to allow all voters to choose the candidate.
McCarthy made his own missteps along the way. Walking a tightrope is practically impossible. You cannot alienate those around you – moderate Republicans, Democrats, Independents – and give in to the crazy wing expecting them to not turn on you because the truth is it will never be enough, ever. They are experts at moving the goalposts. You cannot survive playing every side of the issue and not be loyal to someone.
Democrats in the House hung McCarthy out to dry. There was nothing they could do to save him; they had their own constituents to consider, and many Democrats felt they had been betrayed by McCarthy. In the end, they didn’t wait around for the next knife plunge from the Speaker. They joined in the vote with Republicans who ate their own. It was swift and it was over.
The final vote was 216-210 to remove the Speaker. The eight Republicans were the ones who carried it over the top and removed McCarthy.
I had my own issues with McCarthy when he turned on Rep. Liz Cheney, a leader in his caucus, and was largely responsible for her defeat when she stood for the Constitution, when he refused to support a January 6 Committee nor to cooperate with it, and when he released more than 40,000 hours of video from the January 6 insurrection of the Capitol to far-right Tucker Carlson, then-Fox News host, who had consistently downplayed the deadly attack by Trump MAGAs. That was not leadership; it was partisanship to the extreme.
I also will never understand McCarthy’s change of heart after the January 6 riot when he at first placed the blame squarely on Trump’s shoulders (where it belonged), then jetted down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring and breathed new life into Trump’s survival. If he and other Republicans had held the line after January 6, it is very possible the GOP would have moved on by now and Trump would have been merely a memory in the rear view mirror.
On Tuesday as Republicans piled on to vote McCarthy out of the speakership, Trump remained mute, lifting not one finger to help “his Kevin.” When will the GOP ever learn the orange man is only for himself? It’s been eight years, long enough to have figured out Trump’s game; yet, here we are with newscasts still firmly focused on him ad nauseum.
The my-way-or-the-highway faction of the GOP is doing its job: they are destroying the party. A civil war rages; crazies like the sleazy Matt Gaetz (R-FL) feel all-powerful and entitled and don’t care about the country or the American people as a whole. We’ve seen this play out and become worse during the past decade.
Amazingly, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – yes, that Newt Gingrich – spoke strongly against the eight Republicans who voted against McCarthy (The Hill):
“Ninety-six percent of the Republicans voted for McCarthy, 4 percent voted against him. From my position as a longtime Republican activist, they’re traitors,” Gingrich said on Fox News’ “Hannity.”
“All eight of them should in fact, be primaried. They should all be driven out of public life.”
Bob Good definitely needs to be primaried and there are people out there willing to do so.
This comment from President George W. Bush bears repeating in these divisive times (Address in Austin Accepting Election as the 43rd President of the United States):
“I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation. The president of the United States is the president of every single American, of every race and every background.
“Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests and I will work to earn your respect.” -George W. Bush (December 13, 2000)
Those are the words of a leader. We need such a leader in these times.
My experience in politics has been that the Old Guard, the electeds, and those who make a living from politics who are against the shenanigans of the “Freedom” caucus and other right-wingers in the GOP will not speak out publicly and, as a result, voters who feel the same have no one to rally around.
There are center-right Republicans waiting and hoping for a change in the party but they need to know they are not alone. Communication is key to finding them, engaging them, and building a coalition of rational leadership with them.
Former Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (2006-14), a content partner with Bearing Drift, has perhaps been the most outspoken of the elected class on the issues plaguing today’s Republican Party.
Until others speak out, expect more of the debacle that played out in the House on Tuesday, and worse.
The vacuum in Republican leadership opens the door for Democrats – the center-left Dems who believe in rational leadership and bipartisanship – to welcome new members because there are Republicans waiting for somewhere to go. They are looking for a home and if the GOP doesn’t provide it, they will find it elsewhere.
So for now the lights are out in the U.S. House chamber for the next week. Stay tuned to whom the GOP will next vote in as leader. With the cast of characters clamoring to the front of the line with far-right winger Jim Jordan as one of the contenders, I’m not impressed. The saga continues.