McCarthy inside the belly of the beast
It’s tempting to gather around a partisan tailgate party and warm your hands on the political fire that is Washington politics. The trouble is, lawmakers set this one themselves, and arson is not a smart way to stay warm. Eventually, the fire spreads everywhere, and that is exactly what’s happening.
The unprecedented ouster of Republican Kevin McCarthy as House speaker by eight far-right radicals is not just a domestic disaster but a global one that has leaders from Kyiv to Ottawa putting on their protective gear.
What does it all mean? We’ve been extensively covering the implications of the McCarthy mayhem, including:
- What happens now?
- Will this lead to more government shutdowns?
- And Ian Bremmer and Matt Kendrick weighed in on the impact this will have on Ukraine here and here.
But for all that, the fundamental question remains unanswered for US allies: Is America the Indispensable now America the Unreliable?
Not yet, but it is moving in that direction.
The Group of 8 who ousted McCarthy – I have heard partisans call them “the Crazy 8s” – may have little internal support in the GOP, but they now essentially control their party. That’s bad news for Ukraine, bad news for the US economy, and bad news for US allies.
Canadian officials now hold long strategy sessions planning not only for a potential Trump government but for immediate US dysfunction. Trump was already promising a government of reprisals, not reliables, but that has now been accelerated by a year. Once Congress stops believing in support for Ukraine, it’s not that lawmakers no longer believe in Ukraine, it’s that they no longer believe in support in general. That sends a bad message to allies.
And what does it say to Moscow? It’s a huge win for Russia. Let’s be clear: Putin is the big winner of the McCarthy debacle.
McCarthy’s fate is a lesson to democracies around the world — Canada, France, Hungary, the UK, you name it — dealing with far-right factions that are growing in support. McCarthy tried to appease them – he tried to give them concessions in hopes they would come round. But it didn’t work. Once you feed the radical beast, you end up in its belly, and that’s where both McCarthy and the Republican Party now find themselves.
Democrats are not blameless either. Not a single Dem voted to support McCarthy. Why? As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explained, Dems should not be “strengthening someone who voted to overturn the election, held the entire US economy hostage, launched a baseless impeachment inquiry without a vote, and refuses to honor his word.”
OK, but now what? Dems may have loathed McCarthy, but at least he tried working with them to secure last weekend’s funding deal. Politics is all about working with people you disagree with for the greater good. Progress moves like a crab in a democracy — to the right, to the left, but slowly ever forward. That ain’t happening now.
Who will come next? Is there really an expectation that by emboldening the Gaetz 8 – the G8 – that things will get better?
The Dems view this purely as part of a political strategy game – as in, the Republicans will wear the political pain of a government shutdown, and watching them infight and collapse will help Biden in the next election. Maybe. The thing is, people vote for politicians to be policymakers, not game players. The Dems may have a short-term victory, but at what cost?
It's hard to see clearly inside the belly of the beast. And while this is disheartening for US voters, it’s the same for US allies. America the Unreliable is not a brand the world needs right now.