Why Kevin McCarthy was Doomed to Fail
The California Republican was destined to embarrass himself and his party
Yesterday was one for the history books. The first and most simple act of any new Congress is to pick its leaders. Periodically, a modicum of drama surrounds the vote for Speaker, but it’s been a very long time since we have witnessed a clown car clusterfuck like the one Kevin McCarthy initiated yesterday.
For the first time this century, the House failed to elect a Speaker on the first ballot.
Or the second ballot.
Or the third ballot.
Electing the Speaker is not just a formality. As Brendan Buck, a former aide to two Republican Speakers, wrote in the New York Times:
The Constitution requires that the House elect a speaker, and the vote takes priority over all other business. Nothing else can be done until the question is resolved. The House votes on a speaker before it formally adopts the set of rules governing the body. The incoming members of Congress won’t even be sworn in until after they choose a speaker… If Republicans are unable to muster the votes for a speaker, it will make very clear from the outset they cannot be counted on to fulfill the body’s basic responsibilities, such as funding the government and preventing a credit default by lifting the debt ceiling, both of which will be required this year.
While there was plenty of suspense over the last few days, this failure was inevitable. Here’s why McCarthy and his party failed at the most basic task in government.
1. The Failure to Heed the Lesson of Munich
The California Republican is the ultimate Washington insider. He is in politics for all the wrong reasons. He has no core set of ideological principles or policy preferences. McCarthy exists to climb the ladder because the ladder is there. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz broke his multi-year streak of saying only dumb and dishonest things when he offered this assessment of McCarthy:
Maybe the right person for the Speaker of the House isn't someone who has sold shares of himself for more than a decade to get it.
Kevin McCarthy could never lead the Republican Caucus, because he doesn’t really understand the forces driving the Republican Party in the Trump era.
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