Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s historic humiliation could not have happened to someone more deserving.
However, I will refrain from criticizing only the Bakersfield Republican who is now, unintentionally, the former Speaker of the House, the first in US history to be impeached. Any accumulation of this mess should encompass the entire Republican Party.
Jackie Calmes brings a critical look to the national political scene. He has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.
The House’s dismissal of McCarthy on Tuesday after just nine months, instigated by a mutiny within its Republican majority, is not just the story of one man’s political downfall. And his harebrained defenestration – which has plunged Congress into chaos and embarrassed a nation that has long prided itself on being a global model of government – is not just the work of eight mutineers led by the excruciatingly self-proclaimed Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. .
Rather, McCarthy’s downfall is a karmic consequence of the fact that he and other Republican “leaders” have for years presided over the radicalization of their once proud “small government” party, turning it into a fractious “anti-government” party.
The increasingly right-wing evolution of the Republicans, from Newt Gingrich’s revolution in the 1990s, through the Tea Party movement of the late aughts to Trump’s takeover, has led to nothing less than nihilism now .
What does it matter to many Republicans that the House cannot function without a speaker? They no longer believe in government and democracy.
Years of Democrats’ extremist, anti-Washington, and demonizing rhetoric of Republicans have spawned a Frankenstein’s monster (their party’s militant, uncompromising voters) that sends conspirators and flamethrowers to Congress. Those hardline voters are the power and money behind people like Gaetz and his far-right group.
And don’t be fooled by Republicans who have been suggesting since McCarthy’s firing that the extremists in the House are limited to the eight who voted (with Democrats) to unseat him. Among those who supported McCarthy were firebrands Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and (very reluctantly) Lauren Boebert of Colorado, along with others who spend most of their days trying to tear down the hated government.
Also remember: on January 6, 2021, after When insurrectionists ransacked the Capitol, two-thirds of House Republicans voted not to certify Joe Biden’s victory, as the rioters wanted. That is the ultimate anti-government act: attempting to overturn the result of an election.
It was this trend that brought the new Republican majority to power in the House in January. However, McCarthy further strengthened the nihilists and weakened himself with the concessions he made during the 15 rounds of voting necessary to win election as president. One was a new House rule, almost designed for Gaetz, who craved attention, allowing a single House member to call a vote to kick the president to the curb.
It was only a matter of time.
Add to this the Republicans’ continued 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 bring the country to the brink of default by resisting an essential increase in the government debt limit, and then within hours of a federal shutdown by opposing a government funding bill.
To do otherwise would amount to good governance, and they could not allow that.
In both self-induced crises, McCarthy ultimately did the right thing. He committed to the Democrats. He recognized, as the crazies in his party apparently did not, that Republicans would pay a high political price for any damage caused by a default or shutdown.
How crazy is it that Gaetz and company are now firing McCarthy for trusting Democrats to pass laws? This madness: they couldn’t have pulled off their coup if it weren’t for the Democrats’ votes.
Here’s another irony: Even when Republicans were at war with each other and disrupting the government, McCarthy supporters expected Democrats—given their party’s penchant for making government work—to bail him out. They prayed that enough Democrats would vote “present” or even for the president to offset the anti-McCarthy votes.
However, the Democrats’ pro-government bias has its limits. And McCarthy – by pandering to MAGA extremists, including reneging on his own debt limit agreement with Biden and green-lighting a baseless impeachment inquiry into the president – had definitely crossed that line.
Before long, Democrats were raising money off of Republicans’ display of government incompetence. A text aimed at small donors asked for $5 for the House Democrats’ campaign committee, to help the party regain the majority in the 2024 elections. “We MUST restore order in the People’s House,” it said .
Let’s hope we get some order before then. But the Republicans are still in charge, even if McCarthy is not. Bet: the order is not likely.