On the 15th attempt, Kevin McCarthy was finally elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. The freak show in Washington D.C. performed by the Republican party finally came to an end, for now at least. Just so everybody understands what was happening: it’s not that Democrats and Republicans could not agree on a candidate for Speaker of the House of Representatives. Republicans have the majority, but twenty of their own members stubbornly voted against their own candidate. It shows just how deeply divided and dependent on its radical wing the Republican party has become. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for the New York Editorial about polarization as a political business model. The episode is just a new illustration for that.
One of the most important skills of a legislative leader is to be able to count votes. You have to know how to differentiate between people you can count on and those who bullshit you. If Kevin McCarthy had known for sure that he would lose the vote, would he have brought it to the floor fourteen times? It makes no sense and thereby McCarthy has already shown that he does not have what it takes to be an effective Speaker of the House. This would never have happened to Nancy Pelosi. She never brought something up for a vote on the floor if she wasn’t sure she had the votes (and some spare votes in her pocket).
If Republicans had such a hard time agreeing on electing one of their own members as Speaker of the House, how could they ever agree on any substantial policy? In that sense, McCarthy is off to an incredibly weak start. Republicans will still give Joe Biden a headache with investigations, but I have serious doubts that they will be able to pass any meaningful legislation on their own against the will of Democrats.
By the way, there are 212 Democrats in the House. In each and every round of voting, the Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, got 212 votes. If just a bit more than 5’000 people in selected key districts would have voted for the Democrat instead of the Republican last November, Democrats would be in control now.