So long, Kevin

Kevin McCarthy was, in many ways, doomed from the start.As soon as Kevin McCarthy claimed the Speaker’s gavel in January, people started noting the way in which his position as Speaker of the House was under constant threat. The deal McCarthy made with the House Republican Freedom Caucus was a Chekov’s gun, an anvil labelled “motion to vacate” hanging over McCarthy’s head. His tenure as Speaker was something of a Shakespearian tragedy — like Romeo and Juliet. Poor Kevin never really had a chance.
The thing about this whole ridiculous affair is that it belies a fundamental disconnect between reality and the House Republican Party. Rep. Matt Gaetz and his posse of Capitol Hill’s least-wanted seem to exist in an entirely different universe. McCarthy was removed from the office of Speaker because he did the unthinkable: he compromised with Democrats. He made a deal with Joe Biden to raise the debt ceiling and prevent the utter collapse of the American — and quite possibly the global — economy. He passed a bipartisan spending bill to keep the government open. Why? Because that is the only thing he could have done.
If we all remember our “Schoolhouse Rock,” before a bill can become a law it must pass both the House, the Senate and get signed by the president. This means that whatever the Republican House votes on must also get the approval of the Democratic Senate and the Democratic president. So, Kevin McCarthy passed a spending bill that received Democratic support. He had no other choice. Even if he had passed a bill through the House that was solely supported by Republicans, it never would have survived the Senate, to say nothing of the swift veto it would have received if it had, somehow, against all odds, made it to President Biden’s desk.
And yet, this fact of divided government seemed to elude a portion of the Republican Party. They are content to exist in a world in which party politics supersede the responsibilities of Congress and the federal government as a whole.
Kevin McCarthy worked with Democrats because that was the only way to keep the government open, and he was summarily ousted for it. This means that either the Freedom Caucus does not know how the government works, which seems unlikely, or they genuinely do not care.
Maybe it is just me, but the latter seems worse. We have a group of people in government willing to grind the country to a halt for a laugh. They do not care that it means members of the military will not get paid, that mothers and children in need will not get their WIC benefits and go hungry or that national parks will close. They do not care that they are hurting real people, real Americans, the exact sort of folks they were, ostensibly, elected to help. These people took advantage of the slim margins within the House to build an incredibly small coalition with incredibly outsized power, and then they used that power to make people’s lives worse. It is an apathetic and callous approach to governing, and it is dangerous. When people decide their loyalty to ideology is more important than their duty to the American people, it puts real people at risk of real harm.
So, is it funny to watch the Speaker of the House get cuckolded live on CSPAN? Is the drama and the palace intrigue entertaining? Is the tragic story of Kevin McCarthy playing the world’s stupidest game and winning the world’s stupidest prize something that brings me real, tangible joy? Yes, yes it is. But underneath it all is a form of political rot that poses a genuine threat to our government and, more importantly, the people it is meant to serve.

Post Author: Ace Hensley