Undiscussed in the public forum is that the latest California redistricting maps-- less than a week from finalization-- draw Kevin McCarthy's home out of his district and throws him-- and all of Bakersfield-- into CA-21 (David Valadao's district). The same map also leaves Devin Nunes' blue enough to be out of reach for a Republican (other than in a red wave year). At the same time, the map creates a super-red district east of Nunes' and McCarthy's current districts, which one of them is likely to want to grab. Next week we could expect to see some real musical chairs among California members of Congress. The idea of McCarthy not representing Bakersfield, where he was born and raised, is shocking, as the city has been his turf since 2002, when he represented it in the state Assembly. Before that, he worked for 15 years on the staff of Bill Thomas, who represented Bakersfield in Congress.
With virtually no leadership traits beyond glad-handing and money-grubbing, Republicans have been on-again/off-again about seeing McCarthy as their fearless leader. Trump sees him as a sufficiently slavish useful idiot but would prefer someone more ruthless leading his congressional troops. Trump doesn't hate him the way he hates McConnell, but he has zero respect for him. Members closest to Trump, deranged sociopaths like Marjorie Traitor Greene and Matt Gaetz, openly taunt McCarthy and threaten his chance to become speaker if a red wave actually materializes, sweeping the pathetic Democrats out of office next year and plunging America further into fascism so much of the country seems to eager to mindlessly embrace.
This morning, author and Cornell University professor Glenn Altschuler, a regular Hill contributor, penned a piece painting McCarthy as a hostage to the GOP's 'exotic wing.' "Exotic" is not a synonym for either Nazi or fascist. It's an odd way to describe the IQ-deficient insurrectionist Gang Greene. In Altschuler's eyes, McCarthy is a weathervane, "constantly changing his behavior to remain in alignment with the partisan political winds. To achieve his one and only goal-- becoming Speaker of the House-- McCarthy has become hostage to Donald Trump and what used to be regarded as 'the exotic wing' of the Republican Party.
Alschuler noted how, just under 3 years ago, McCarthy was stampeded into ending the political career of Iowa white nationalist Steve King when he started spouting his racism right after the GOP lost 42 House seats, Democrats winning 60.6 million votes in House races to the GOP's 50.9 million. McCarthy allies who would not be returning to Congress that year included Ed Royce (CA), Darrell Issa (CA), Jeff Denham (CA), David Valadao (CA), Steve Knight (CA), Mimi Walters (CA), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Jeb Hensarling (TX), John Culberson (TX), Lamar Smith (TX), Dan Donovan (NY), Tom Garrett (VA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Mark Sanford (SC), Kristi Noem (SD), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Tom Rooney (FL), Ryan Costello (PA), John Faso (NY), Trey Gowdy (SC), Tom MacArthur (NJ), Jason Lewis (MN), Robert Pittenger (NC), Leonard Lance (NJ), Dave Reichert (WA), Steve Pearce (NM), Steve Russell (OK), LoBiondo (NJ), Kevin Yoder (KS), Mia Love (UT), Martha McSally (AZ), Luke Messer (IN), Joe Barton (TX), Charlie Dent (PA), Bruce Poliquin (ME), Pat Meehan (PA), Randy Hultgren (IL), Keith Rothfus (PA), Mike Coffman (CO), Peter Roskam (IL)... to name a few that spring to mind. McCarthy, calling his rhetoric "definitely not America," kicked King off both is committees (including Agriculture), which pretty much guaranteed that he would lose the next GOP primary.
In retrospect, King's rhetoric seems almost patriotic compared to the violent Naziism spouted daily by Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Paul Gosar, Marjorie Traitor Greene, Andy Barr and the other "exotics." But, wrote Altschuler, "In February 2021, two weeks after Trump left the White House, McCarthy was less sure which way the political winds in the GOP were blowing. Having claimed in 2020 that 'there’s no place for QAnon in the Republican Party,' McCarthy now said, 'I don’t even know what QAnon is.' McCarthy stated that Traitor Greene's assertion that Pelosi was guilty of treason, a crime punishable by death, and her conspiracy theories about staged school shootings and wildfires set by Jews with space lasers 'do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference.' Although he maintained that 'we hold our members to a high standard,' McCarthy opposed removing Greene from the budget panel and education and labor committee-- and promised she might get 'better ones' if the Republicans are returned to power and he’s in charge."
Buoyed by President Biden's sagging poll numbers and Republican gains in off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey, McCarthy now seems confident that his party will regain control of the House in 2022. He realizes, of course, that he needs the votes of everyone on his side of the aisle to become Speaker.
And so, when Paul Gosar posted a photoshopped anime video to his Twitter and Instagram accounts in which he kills AOC and attacks Biden, McCarthy vehemently opposed censure for Gosar. In fact, McCarthy promised to award Gosar, as with Greene, with other-- perhaps “better”-- committee assignments. Last week, Lauren Boebert described an alleged encounter in an elevator with Ilhan Omar (D-MN), one of three Muslims in Congress, in a way that portrayed Omar as a potential Jihadist suicide bomber. Nancy Mace (R-SC) blasted the “disgusting” racist trope. From McCarthy … crickets.
Nor should we forget McCarthy’s about face on the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
At first, he acknowledged what we all saw and knew: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress,” McCarthy declared on the floor of House. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was happening.” McCarthy maintained there was “absolutely no evidence” that Antifa planned the attacks: “Conservatives should be the first to say so.”
“Let’s be clear,” he concluded, “Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States in one week, because he won the election.”
In February, however, as Trump’s hold on the Republican base and the party apparatus became apparent, McCarthy visited Mar-a-Lago to kiss the former president’s ring. In July, he walked back his claim that Trump bore responsibility for Jan. 6; instead, he accused Speaker Pelosi of ignoring advance warnings and refusing to seek assistance from the National Guard. By November, he was chastising the Nobel Prize committee for failing to award the Peace Prize to Trump.
McCarthy initially designated John Katko (R-NY) to negotiate with Democrats to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol. The Democrats accepted McCarthy’s demands-- a 10-member panel, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans; subpoenas issued only if the chair and vice chair (or a majority of members) agreed; and a final report produced by Dec. 31, 2021. Katko called the draft agreement “solid and fair.”
But after Trump told Republicans not to fall into “the Democrat trap,” McCarthy-- who had just gotten rid of Liz Cheney as third-ranking Republican leader in the House, despite her 95 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union-- threw Katko under the bus. McCarthy refused to accept the bipartisan commission unless it also investigated racial protests, a car attack on the Capitol, and a 2017 shooting of GOP lawmakers during a baseball game in Alexandria, Va.
As he should have known, the weathervane has not secured the support of the extremists he has been cultivating.
“I don’t respect him at all,” Greene said recently of McCarthy: “Many of us are very unhappy.” Greene wants McCarthy to throw Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) out of the Republican Party and take away committee assignments from any House Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill. Mark Meadows, former leader of the Freedom Caucus and Trump’s chief of staff, has given McCarthy a grade of D for “throwing in the towel” when Republicans have Democrats “on the ropes.” Meadows suggests that Trump be voted the next Speaker if Republicans take control.
McCarthy may in fact get his wish and become Speaker in January 2023. If he does, we may-- or may not-- find out what, if anything, he stands for.
Blue America has endorsed Bruno Amato for the Bakersfield congressional seat that McCarthy now represents. But if the new maps presage him moving to another district, Amato is rumored to be planning to follow him in order to continue waging a campaign to encourage California voters to remove McCarthy from Congress. Unless you're just a big fan of weathervanes, please consider contributing to Amato's campaign by clicking here and donating what you can.