Kevin McCarthy’s Ouster Is A Mere Symptom Of The Deeper GOP Pathology

INSIDE: Patrick McHenry ... Donald Trump ... Rudy G
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) answers questions at the Capitol after being ousted as House speaker October 3, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House voted by simple majority to oust McCart... WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) answers questions at the Capitol after being ousted as House speaker October 3, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House voted by simple majority to oust McCarthy, an effort led by a handful of conservative members of his own party, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

It’s Systemic Not Personal

Between the comedic value, the schadenfreude, the story-telling appeal, and voyeuristic frisson, there’s a lot to love about the downfall of Kevin McCarthy. He deserved everything he got. The House GOP is a colossal mess. If you like spectacles that reinforce your priors and expose the foibles of the incompetent and cruel, this is a glorious time.

“At the start, his speakership was effectively an optical illusion,” John Harris writes. “At the end, it was an exercise in self-abasement.” Indeed.

But this is not really about Kevin McCarthy. He’s a stand-in. Before him were the chronically debased Paul Ryan and John Boehner. The House GOP has been on this merry-go-round for more than a decade.

McCarthy’s downfall is another symptom of the same underlying pathologies: a cultish GOP in thrall to a would-be autocrat, anti-majoritarian structural impediments, a surge in right-wing extremism, white resentments and grievances channeled into a burn-it-all-down fever.

It’s why spending even a moment purporting to analyze whether Democrats “joined” the MAGA right to depose McCarthy is foolishness. This is about right-wing politics in America. But more importantly, there was nothing cathartic about McCarthy’s ouster. It doesn’t change the underlying systemic problems.

It also makes the glut of analysis that focuses on tactical tricks or 3D-chess moves seem so trite and ill-conceived. You can’t “tactics” your way out of deeply rooted systemic problems, no matter how clever you may be.

I’m a firm believer in the credo that things can always get worse, not as a lament, or a throwing up of the hands, but as a cold-eyed assessment of the road ahead. With McCarthy out, things can definitely get worse.

What’s Next?

Let’s preface this with the observation that no one really knows what’s next. This is uncharted territory. The House GOP is a rolling clown show and that makes predictions foolhardy.

In the vacuum of certainty, everyone tries to find some semblance of order. So it was that Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-NC) sketched out a “schedule” for electing McCarthy’s successor:

  • Next Tuesday: a candidate “forum” of some kind
  • Next Wednesday: vote on a new speaker.

That sounds like a structured, planned approach. But it’s really not. They’re winging it.


Most of the coverage of the succession question is focused on Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, with a little noise around Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-OK). 

Did I mention that things could get worse before they better?

Does It Even Matter?

I’m not even sure the succession question is the right question. Will the House GOP change the rule that McCarthy agreed to as a price of winning the speakership that leaves a motion to vacate hanging over the head of any speaker like a sword of Damocles?

If not, then the next speaker may not have a real majority anymore than McCarthy did.

Again, this is systemic. Not personal.

That Poor Gavel

For The Record

The eight House GOP mutineers who ousted McCarthy:

  • Matt Gaetz (FL)
  • Andy Biggs (AZ)
  • Tim Burchett (TN) t
  • Eli Crane (AZ)
  • Nancy Mace (SC)
  • Matt Rosendale (MT)
  • Bob Good (VA)
  • Ken Buck (CO)

Don’t Feel Sorry For McCarthy

McHenry Boots Pelosi From Her Capitol Hideaway

Among Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHeny’s first acts: booting Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer from their plum Capitol offices.

Pelosi, who missed the McCarthy ouster to be back home for the series of memorial events for the late Sen. Dianna Feinstein (D-CA), being vaguely retaliated against while she’s away is extra galling – but exactly the kind of bullying we’ve come to expect.

What’s Happening Here?

Taken together, McCarthy’s lashing out at Dems after his own party dumped him, McHenry inflicting pain on former Dem leaders, and inane analysis egged on by Republicans, is sooo symptomatic of the current GOP.

Cruelty remains its most vital currency, the thing that unites them despite all their other divisions. Lashing out, exacting “revenge” for perceived slights, framing the world in a binary friend v. foe way is the quickest way to reestablish internally something that vaguely looks like unity. It’s also a flex for a new albeit temporary leader like McHenry.

There’s also an element of bullying rolling downhill, with the bullied and abused taking out their frustrations and acting out their damaged psyches by bullying and abusing others.


Groan …

Trump Slapped With Gag Order

A lot has happened since yesterday’s Morning Memo on Trump’s attacks against the New York court hearing his civil fraud trial. The attacks continued, with a Truth Social post by Trump targeting the court clerk and Trump’s campaign doing an oppo research dump on the judge. TPM’s Hunter Walker reports on the crazy day in court.

Chutkan Calls Trump’s Bluff On Security Clearances

A play in three parts:

Act I: As part of its delay strategy, Trump’s legal team told the U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan it needed more time to obtain the necessary security clearances.

Act II: Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team responded that some of Trump’s lawyers still hadn’t turned in the necessary paperwork.

Act III: Chutkan ordered Trump’s legal team to get its shit together on security clearances by next week.

Rudy G’s Long Descent

The NYT goes deep on Rudy Giuliani’s drinking:

Yet to almost anyone in proximity, friends say, Mr. Giuliani’s drinking has been the pulsing drumbeat punctuating his descent — not the cause of his reputational collapse but the ubiquitous evidence, well before Election Day in 2020, that something was not right with the former president’s most incautious lieutenant.


Tim Miller: Those Crazy Plans for Trump 2.0? Take Them Seriously.


In oral arguments Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority was less open to gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau than legal observers had expected.

Fifth Circuit Is Gonna Fifth Circuit

The most conservative appeals court ended up doing what it screwed up trying to do last week in the big case against the Biden administration’s handling of misinformation on social media platforms.

A Good Point On SCOTUS And The Fifth Circuit

With the Fifth Circuit serving as a steady pipeline of crazy-ass conservative legal theories, keep this in mind:


Leonard Leo is refusing to cooperate with the DC attorney general’s investigation into his tangled web of dark money outfits and conservative legal advocacy.

Physics Don’t Care Who The Speaker Of The House Is

More on September’s record-shattering heat here.

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