High-level politics is fundamentally about trading. You can’t be successful as anything more than a back venture if you’re not willing to do business with just about anyone on anything.of Faust, Dealing with the devil is deadly. On Capitol Hill, that’s how you survive.
But those “almost” are essential, a lesson Kevin McCarthy is demonstrating this week. McCarthy decided early on to get as close to the former president as possible, but even Trump’s steadfast public support won’t prevent embarrassment in today’s House Speaker vote. Almost everyone who put their political hopes in Trump has backfired for one reason or another. The McCarthy case is just a vivid example of this.
After three ballots, McCarthy did not receive enough votes to become Speaker of the House, a lifelong ambition. A small faction of Republicans in the House refused to support McCarthy, robbing him of the majority he needed. The most likely outcome is for McCarthy to withdraw or concede to conservatives to secure their votes, but weaken and possibly short-live his hold on the caucuses and the House.
McCarthy is not known for having a particularly strong political ideology beyond general conservatism, but his friendliness and energy helped him rise at the Republican convention. 2015 When House Speaker John Boehner stepped down last fall, McCarthy was the leader of the majority and seemed ready to succeed him, but it was clear he didn’t have enough support. When it came to that, he abruptly withdrew from the campaign. Instead, Paul Ryan became the speaker.
In May 2016, as President Trump slowly edged out his presidential primary rival, every Republican official could find two main reasons to support Trump. The first was political. No matter what else was going on, he was the presumptive Republican nominee, and no Democratic president would have achieved his conservative policy goals. The second, though less admirable, was more direct. Tying up the wagon to President Trump could help move personal fortunes forward. McCarthy decided to endorse Trump. He wasn’t the first prominent Republican to do so, but he was early in the wave and predated Ryan.
And McCarthy stuck with it.when Washington Post Many Republicans (including Ryan) flinched when Trump released a tape in October 2016 boasting of sexually assaulting women, but McCarthy didn’t. With Trump’s surprise victory, McCarthy’s loyalty seemed to have paid off. Ryan was frustrated by the few conservative policy victories in Congress, but McCarthy reaped personal gains. McCarthy happily enjoyed the status afforded him by being close to Trump, even if .
McCarthy briefly walked away from Trump only once after the Jan. 6 riots when he told members he called Trump’s actions personally unacceptable and asked the president to resign. had reason to be mad at Trump for dismissing a plea for help that day.”Well, Kevin, I think these people are angrier about the election than you are.”) Late January 2021 He flew to Mar-a-Lago and bowed down. He also tried to deny his private remarks until a reporter taped them.
Over the next two years, he approached Trump and courted the most ardent Trump supporters. Faced with the challenge of what to do, McCarthy chose to go along with Green with only light criticism. Those moves were cowardly and often self-deprecating, but effective. McCarthy finally took the gavel and looked like the lock leading the expected new Republican majority.
But Trump’s magic didn’t help him as much as he thought, and McCarthy’s orator’s bid turned into a mess. First, the forces Trump assembled were not really his own, they were borrowed. His genius tapped into sentiment within the Republican Party that others were reluctant to embrace. This meant he had limited authority to direct MAGA representatives against McCarthy. Second, the backlash against Trumpism has led to a thin and unstable new Republican majority, rather than creating a strong Republican Party that McCarthy might have easily won the presidency despite far-right defections. It helped. Third, Trump is weaker than he once was. Part of the reason is the overwhelming results of the midterm elections and his legal struggles.
McCarthy’s struggle today is another example of how candidates tend to hunt lifelines by joining Trump. It must be said that he was never in a position to lose the vote for the chair if he was against it. Republicans who have flocked to Trump for power gains, whether it’s Jeff Sessions (who was abruptly fired) or Mike Pence (who was chased by the mob), have repeatedly suffered for it. Some, like Lieutenant Liz Cheney, thought better of their alliance and were punished for it. McCarthy stands as a warning.