The Art of Losing the Speaker's Gavel
Kevin McCarthy, not Matt Gaetz, was always the crazy one.
As I write this, the House of Representatives is in limbo. For the first time in U.S. history, a sitting Speaker of the House has been removed from their post, freezing one of our two legislative chambers with less than a month and a half remaining before a government shutdown. This is a crisis by any definition of the term, one that could very well end in tragedy: massive furloughs, cut pay for federal workers, pauses of essential services, even a national recession. But if you were to listen to D.C. journalists, all of the tragedy is localized in one person: Kevin Owen McCarthy, the most betrayed man of all time.
The specifics of this betrayal greatly vary depending on who is telling the story. For most, it is a tale of McCarthy being unjustly persecuted by a group of implacable, irrational radicals who are motivated either by a desire for attention or literal insanity. For others, it is McCarthy being spited by childish Democrats, who, for some reason or another, are required to rescue his speakership despite not being given any concessions. For a sentimental few, it is even a result of McCarthy betraying himself, choosing power through alliances with radicals over his true identity as a responsible, governing conservative. In any event, all of the factors at work are beyond him and what he represents. At best, he is a well-meaning, responsible statesman on the cross; at worst, he simply made bad, if somewhat understandable, decisions.
This gets the modern Republican Party wrong. The dysfunction defining the party right now comes from failures at the core of modern conservatism—failures that “apolitical” observers are both unwilling and unable to see. And to understand why, you need to look a lot further back than just this one power struggle in just this one year.
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