It is axiomatic that Democrats will find a way to profit whenever chaos occurs. It is difficult to understand, therefore, why any of them failed to come to the rescue of California Republican Kevin McCarthy as his bid to become speaker of the House actually started to unravel.
It has been clear for days that McCarthy’s plan to lead the chamber has been imperiled by colleagues from within the GOP who have for months been plotting against him. It’s not that they think him too liberal; it’s that they regard him as untrustworthy.
That’s not the kind of breach that can be healed with concessions, as McCarthy found out on the first ballot. Of the 222 Republicans slated to be members of the GOP Conference, 19 voted for someone besides him to be the speaker.
This is where the Democrats had an opening. Chaos is coming, no matter who ultimately is elected. The issues with McCarthy are not and will never be easily papered over.
Putting him in the chair — thus leaving him in their debt over the next two years — would have been an ironclad guarantee the new speaker would have spent more time fighting for his political life than for the spending restraints he has identified as central to what he wants to do.
As a practical matter, winning the speakership on the votes of Democrats would leave McCarthy in a permanently untenable position. They could put him there and they could keep him there by providing the votes needed to turn back any effort by the “Never Kevin” crowd to force a vote on a motion to vacate the chair.
The infighting among the GOP ranks would be fierce and constant. It would be worse than the Goldwaterites vs. the Rockefeller Republicans or the Reaganites vs. the Bushies. In those battles, epic though they may have been, the differences were ideological and directional. This time, it’s personal.
All that should be clear to the Democrats yet they’re staying out of it. At least for the moment. Some might call that a tactical error even though, as the wise man once advised, “Never interfere with your adversary when he’s busy destroying himself.” In this case, though, sitting it out is perilous.
Presume for a moment McCarthy isn’t elected. Whoever is elected in his stead will have to have broad support, including the most moderates as well as the most conservative members. This unity candidate, whomever he or she might be, would have a freer hand than McCarthy to engage in daily combat with the Democrats on legislation and matters related to oversight.
Having a GOP speaker actually if not just theoretically in debt to the opposition for his position would send the anti-Biden agenda straight into a brick wall.
Before discarding this idea as delusional, look around the country. Over the last 10 years, several state legislative chambers including the Texas House of Representatives have been organized in just such a fashion, led by a nominally Republican Speaker put into office with the support of the Democrats. If it can happen in Austin, it can happen here — and may yet still.
If it does, who’s to blame? McCarthy, for not being a better leader? Or the “Never Kevin” crowd who, despite their commitment to their agenda, failed to consider all the possibilities before they went to war? And does it matter since, either way, the Democrats win?
A former UPI senior political writer and U.S. News and World Report columnist, Peter Roff is a senior fellow at several public policy organizations including the Trans-Atlantic Leadership Network. Contact him at RoffColumns AT gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter and TruthSocial @TheRoffDraft.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.