Who put a big fat lump of coal in his stocking?
One of America’s all-stars is having an unhappy holiday. A real eye-welling, punch-the-walls, scream-at-parents, scratch-siblings Christmas. After rising the ranks to greatness, besting adversity, proving himself to naysayers with pure hard grit, he’s hit a professional snag. Missteps, miscues, missed opportunities. What looked like a bright promise now appears as a dim future. Bitterness is swallowing his sunny, commercial-ready cheeriness. He’s lashing out, heaping blame on interlopers, letting emotion seethe through his arch smile.
He played the game correctly, made all the right moves, but now feels cheated. Ripped off. Denied his destiny.
Sounds like Patrick Mahomes. But whom I’m really referring to is Kevin McCarthy. Mahomes… McCarthy—you can see the need for clarification.
The former Speaker of the House is making the best, most ethical, and wisest choice of his career: rage-quitting Congress.
The Bakersfield boyar is hitting the Beltway bricks, announcing his intention to vamoose from the Capitol before the clock strikes twelve on December 31st.
McCarthy confirmed his resignation in the newspaper that will miss him most: The Wall Street Journal. “I’m Leaving the House but Not the Fight” he declared, convincing nobody of his second clause, not even himself. The once-up-and-coming “Young Gun” won’t keep throwing haymakers in our great partisan scrum. His fight is finished—the cash-out begins. Being Speaker is cool and all, officiating very official business like sending trillions to overseas warzones then naming a Post Office in Minto, ND after a local cowpuncher. But nothing is more American—and helps America more—than stuffing your net worth. Keeping Washington open by cutting a spending deal with the opposing party? *Juvenile fart sounds.* Joining the board of Deloitte? *Star-Spangled Banner thunders.*
Kevin’s going to jingle his can elsewhere, which is just as well. The why he left is left unanswered. But, without projecting or being overly presumptive, we can all take an educated guess at. My grand theory: it’s all Eric Cartman. McCarthy feels slighted by the plebes. Deposed from the Speakership by a handful of unruly populists, he has no intention of being a backbencher who’s wined and dined by third-tier lobby shops just on Tuesdays.
Following his green dream would be respectable enough. But McCarthy has bitterness to burn, and belched out some of his spleenish bile on his way out the exit. In a colloquy with counting-house columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin at a New York Times event (strike one and two), McCarthy recalled his beginnings as the House GOP honcho in 2019: “I’d just become leader and I’m excited and President Trump’s there. And I look over at the Democrats and they stand up. They look like America. We stand up. We look like the most restrictive country club in America.”
Zing! Take that, RepubliKKKAns! (It’s worth noting the only member of Congress who actually belongs to a whites-only country club is Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.)
McCarthy’s intention, besides painting his colleagues as mayonnaise-slathered bigots, is to take credit for diversifying the Republican caucus. On that point, he’s indeed added ink to his party’s white ledger. A handful of racial minorities became sitting Republican members of Congress during McCarthy’s tenure as leader, including John James of Michigan, Wesley Hunt of Texas, and Michelle Steel of California. (Who are, respectively: Black. Black. Asian woman! *DING DING DING* Two for one!)
There was also lying Long Island congressman George Santos, who performed an identity hat trick by checking off the “gay,” “Latino,” and “transvestite” boxes with bright-pink Xs, along with other identities that remain fuzzy and unproven. Unfortunately, he got the congressional can for sloppy accounting. Republicans are upping the identity ante in nominating Mazi Melesa Pilip as Santos’s successor—an African-born, IDF-trained immigrant who is also a registered Democrat. McCarthy’s D.E.I. legacy lives on! Let’s see Democrats vote against a black Jewish refugee heh heh heh…
If McCarthy is eager to take a victory lap for adding a splash of rainbow to the stuffy white GOP, he can pump his haunches until they bonk. Democrats, however, aren’t about to shower him with warm accolades. Neither will his own party. National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty takes a dim view of McCarthy’s sop to identitarian tastemakers, calling them more spiteful than boasting: “Proof that Kevin McCarthy doesn’t even know his own party beyond the donor class. Every single time a leading Republican loses responsibility they go through this cathartic mask off phase that is repulsive.”
Kevin McCarthy isn’t the first snubbed lawmaker to cast aspersions on the very people who awarded him power. He’s not even the first Speaker to do so. Paul Ryan whines weekly about Republican voters enthralled to a totalitarian. John Boehner snipes at the institution he used to run from his La-Z-Boy. They all echo German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s desire to dissolve their party base and elect a new, more respectable band of ballot casters. Only Brecht was kidding, whereas McCarthy et al. aren’t.
Matthew Walther posits that “people on the right desire the approbation of the cultural and intellectual establishment” to make up for being barred entry to their grade-school cool clique. The petulant way McCarthy and his predecessors carry on after their careers peter out suggests Walther is on to something with his internalized-elementary-resentment syndrome theory.
Adopting the left’s group framing as a kind of hallmark to his record is exactly why McCarthy lost his Speaker station. Republican voters, for all their countervailing beliefs and notions and Trumphilia, loathe identity politics. So what does their former leader do? He goes from insulting constituents to patronizing them with superficial placation. “Hey, numbskulls, don’t you appreciate our rich tapestry of skin color in our caucus? From beige to brown! From drab to dark!”
Corporate America is offloading its glut of costly chief diversity officers. Congress is no different. McCarthy will have to play his racial recruitment pitch elsewhere in a dwindling market.