A Contrary View

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TPM Reader PT says Dems should have propped McCarthy up. On balance, I don’t agree. But he makes a good argument.

I realize this is contrary to conventional wisdom, and your own analysis of the situation, but if I had been running the House Democratic Caucus I would have provided Kevin McCarthy with votes to keep the Speakership. My thinking is the following:

First, on the issue of significant concessions, it’s worth remembering that the proximal issue that brought down McCarthy is that he ultimately turned around and passed a (mostly) clean CR that overwhelmingly relied on votes from Democrats. Does that count as a “concession?” I don’t know, but I think that when a Republican puts his career on the line to do the right thing, letting him go down the drain does not create incentives that are good for the country.

Second, I think it’s worth remembering that a lot of the things that McCarthy has done that make Democrats angry were driven by the perceived need to avoid a motion to vacate. Had the Democrats voted to retain McCarthy as Speaker, that threat would have been diminished if not destroyed. Whether he would then have behaved in a more honorable way is open to debate, but at least the opportunity would have been there. 

Third, and relatedly, if Democrats came to his rescue, it would mean that the motion to vacate is a dead letter as long as the Democrats agree to keep it that way. In other words, rather than being beholden to the worst actors in Congress, he would have been beholden to the best ones. 

Fourth, because McCarthy went down to defeat, Gaetz has now confirmed his position as kingmaker / giant killer in the House. At this point there’s no question that every Republican in the chamber, or at least every Speaker, has to accept a role as his puppet. Had the motion to vacate failed, Gaetz would instead be a laughingstock and well-positioned to be the object of retaliation by McCarthy. IMO, that’s a good day’s work right there.

While I appreciate all the comedy value and schadenfreude everyone is rightly deriving from the situation, I honestly think that this was a missed opportunity to weaken the most extreme part of the Republican Party and strengthen the Democrats. 

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