Kevin McCarthy, Leader Cat in Hat (R-Bakersfield) is well-known on K Street and inside the Beltway in general... but most Americans still don't know who the hell he is. The Democrats ought to work on getting him better known, since he's a walking, talking advert against Republican governance... and, if history is predictive, he'll be the next Speaker of the House. Polls consistently show many people don't know enough about him to form an opinion and that large numbers of Americans have never heard of him. The latest polling from Morning Consult asked registered voters if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of McCarthy.
Heard of him but no opinion- 24%
Never heard of him- 12%
Yesterday, writing for Vanity Fair, Bess Levin referred to him, almost in passing, as a "shameless hack," which is how he is generally viewed by his colleagues and everyone else who knows him, in Washington and in California. McCarthy represents a red district that stretches from the very northern edge of L.A. County (the Antelope Valley) through Kern County-- where almost all the voters in his district live-- and into Porterville in Tulare County. The PVI is R+14, the reddest in California. Trump beat Biden there last year, 57.1% to 40.5%, Trump's best performance and Biden's worst, in California. Yet, if the Democrats ever got serious about defeating him-- they've never really tried-- they could do it in a couple of cycles. Why do I think so? The district backed Jerry Brown's and Barbara Boxer's reelections in 2010 (with 56% each) and gave Kamala Harris 54.3% in her 2016 Senate run. In 2018 CA-23 picked progressive Kevin de Leon over Dianne Feinstein (60.3% to 39.7%) in the general election for Senate. And then there's this:
McCarthy-- former chair of the California Young Republicans and then minority leader of the state Assembly-- was first elected to Congress in 2006. He was elected Majority Whip in 2011 and when Eric Cantor was defeated in a 2014 primary, he became Majority Leader. He's practically a Steny Hoyer doppelgänger-- more about raking in lobbyist and corporate cash than about ideology or policy. After the Republicans lost the 2018 elections, the far right of the GOP congressional delegation tried ousting him and replacing him with neo-fascist Gym Jordan, but he beat back the challenge with ease and was reelected 159-43.
He strongly backed Trump in the 2016 primaries and was one of Trump's most prominent ass-kissers for the entire 4 years, despite having told his caucus that Trump was on Putin's payroll. After Trump was defeated, McCarthy went on Laura Ingraham's Fox show and said that "Trump won the election... Everyone who is listening: Do not be quiet. Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes." McCarthy very much helped to ignite the spark that led to the attempted coup and the sacking of the Capitol. This month, McCarthy blatantly denied that he had supported Trump’s bullshit about election fraud, despite having signed onto the failed GOP amicus brief to the Supreme Court challenging the election and despite having supported Texas v. Pennsylvania that sought to overturn voting results in four states and despite having voting in favor of a House resolution to overturn voting results in two states. A couple of hours after the Trumpist mob sacked the Capitol, McCarthy led his members in a vote against certifying the election results.
So, you can understand why Levin referred to him as a shameless hack, particularly because he admitted he knew Trump was guilty as charged. "One of the most disturbing attributes of the modern Republican Party," wrote Levin, "is its insistence on lying about easily verifiable facts. Donald Trump was obviously the master of this, insisting, among tens of thousands of other false or misleading claims, that wind turbines cause cancer, that he invented the phrase 'prime the pump,' that you have to show ID to buy a box of cereal, and that he won the 2020 election. But, of course, he’s hardly alone in this regard, a point House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took pains to emphasize on Thursday when he insisted he never supported the ex-president’s attempt to overturn the election, which he most certainly did.
Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju about McCarthy’s criticism of Democrats for contesting an Iowa House race despite having vociferously backed Trump’s campaign to block Joe Biden from becoming president, the Republican leader angrily swore he did nothing of the sort. “You're saying something that is not true,” McCarthy snapped at Raju, who was, in reality, saying something that is extremely true.
As The Hill notes, two days after the election, McCarthy appeared on Fox News declaring “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet.” Later, he endorsed a Texas lawsuit challenging the results of the election in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia. He raised no concerns about Trump spending months insisting the election had been stolen from him. In December, asked by reporter Lauren Koenig if he would accept the results of the election after the January 6 certification, McCarthy, according to Koenig, scoffed in her face and replied, “Why would I do that?” Then, on January 6, i.e. the day angry Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, McCarthy voted to reject the Electoral College results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. (Incidentally, McCarthy cast his vote after the fascist mob tried to overthrow the government, in case anyone was worried he’d grown a conscience while the rioters were trying to “hang Mike Pence.”) In other words, McCarthy is not just a liar but the kind of liar who doesn’t care how easy it is to prove he’s full of shit.
Yet even as the House Republican leader attempts to distance himself from the insurrection, he remains fully devoted to Trump. According to CNN, McCarthy has “sought to maintain a relationship” with the ex-president. In January, Politico reported that he stopped by Mar-a-Lago to “smooth things over,” believing, according to the outlet’s sources, that it was “in his interest to be on Trump’s good side.” After having suggested, in the immediate wake of the attack, that Trump bore some responsibility for the insurrection, McCarthy went on to say he didn’t believe the then president had “provoked” the mob, later adding that “everybody across this country has some responsibility” for the Capitol attack. Which, like his claim of not supporting Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 results, is completely and totally untrue.
One of McCarthy's colleagues in the House told me he doesn't think there's much "there there" and that McCarthy "went a very long way on very little... He's vaguely likable the way Uriah Heep was "likable" in David Copperfield... one of the most insincere people I've ever talked to-- and I've been serving in Washington for almost two decades!"
Like I said, the Democrats never seriously try taking on McCarthy in CA-23-- too much work for them, when they care barely win in districts that are handed to them on silver platters. McCarthy won in 2018 with 63.7% and won last year with 62.1%, both times against weak and unsupported candidates. This time Navy vet, former iron worker and actor Bruno Amato is challenging him.