So Kevin McCarthy has finally fallen from the high wire between fanatics and mere ideologues he has been walking during his mercifully brief but deeply annoying tenure as House Speaker. Having placated the true nihilists of his conference throughout most of 2023, he’s “betrayed” them for a second time and is paying the inevitable price. The first betrayal was cutting a deal with Joe Biden to avoid a debt default that would have screwed up the global economy and brought misery to millions of Americans. He then abandoned the spending-level portions of deal with Biden in order to satisfy Republicans who will tell you every day of the week that they prefer a radically stripped-down government and will do anything to secure it. But he betrayed them again by cutting a deal with Democrats to keep the federal government open after he couldn’t get his own troops to support a stopgap spending bill full of the knuckle-dragger provisions they’d been insisting upon.
The knuckle-draggers, led by Matt Gaetz, whom no one seems to like, then carried out their long-standing threat to make McCarthy walk the plank for daring to compromise with the people who control two-thirds of the federal government. But this time he went out of his way to publicly tell Democrats (a) they needed to save him from a motion-to-vacate-the-chair and (b) he would make absolutely no concessions to secure their support.
So whatever you think of the House Republicans who took away McCarthy’s gavel once Democrats wisely stepped aside from the GOP brawl, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him. He really hasn’t been loyal to anybody or anything other than his own power. And to secure and perpetuate it, he’s been willing to suck up to a lot of people who are arguably worse than his right-wing tormenters, notably Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom he not only rehabilitated from her well-earned isolation in the House but made a trusted adviser, and, of course, MTG’s idol, Donald Trump. One defining moment of McCarthy’s political career was when he begged the former president’s forgiveness for losing patience with him while his goons attacked the Capitol on January 6. Another was when he relied on Trump operating through MTG to give a final boost to the Speakership after 15 agonizing rounds of voting in January.
Now that McCarthy has been defenestrated, rumor has it he may attempt a comeback when Congress acts to fill the chair that has just been vacated. I don’t know if that means he intends to inflict on the House and on the country another multi-round election resolved only after he gives his contemptuous intra-party foes whatever they ask for. We can only hope he has the decency to spare us a nightmare whose only justification is the satisfaction of his ego. Voters will have an opportunity next year to stop the Narcissist-in-Chief who is slouching toward Washington to be reborn as president. But the House needs to move on from Kevin McCarthy right now.