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Matt Gaetz Didn’t Oust McCarthy. He Just Helped Democrats Do It

Matt Gaetz
Image CreditCSpan/House Session

Kevin McCarthy becomes the first speaker to ever be successfully ousted in a motion to vacate vote. One day, you can tell your grandchildren you were alive to witness this completely pointless bit of history.

Matt Gaetz’s self-aggrandizing political stunt makes no sense and changes nothing — other than perhaps his fundraising totals. And other than some platitudinous blathering about “the establishment” and “the uniparty,” I still haven’t seen anyone offer a coherent reason — not even retroactively— for how any of this is the “best way to advance the conservative agenda.”

It would be one thing, perhaps an admirable thing, if Gaetz had gone on this crusade for a coherent ideological or principled reason. But his post-ousting demagoguery and grandstanding about issues completely unrelated to McCarthy’s job performance proved it was a personal matter.

“I don’t think voting against Kevin McCarthy is chaos,” Gaetz explained. “I think $33 trillion in debt is chaos. I think that facing a $2.2-trillion annual deficit is chaos.” Now, there are numerous people to blame for the impending fiscal disaster, but McCarthy is no more guilty than most.

One of the least convincing claims by Gaetz’s defenders is that McCarthy was punished for ignoring the base. “The base,” of course, is a popular euphemism for the most vociferous populist faction of the GOP. This faction enjoys blowing things up — mostly their own party’s prospects. In this case, the “base” was represented by eight Republicans and the entire Democratic Party.

And among these principled eight GOPers who were fighting for the honor of the base — what The New York Times called the “far-right faction” — were Nancy Mace (who said Gaetz was a “fraud” the last time he tried to knock off McCarthy) and Ken Buck (who we last heard was reportedly looking for a CNN gig.) I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the future of conservatism was not the motivating factor for their votes.

Most Trump-endorsed candidates didn’t even participate in McCarthy’s removal. Trump himself tepidly supported the speaker because, as he noted, the man had said “very great things” about him. And, really, what’s more important? Though, I bet McCarthy was expecting a far more energetic defense after pathetically ingratiating himself to the former president a couple of weeks ago.

Even if Gaetz had excellent reasons, Republicans did not eject McCarthy. Eight Republicans can’t do anything by themselves. No, 208 Democrats ousted McCarthy with the help of some petulant backbenchers nursing personal vendettas. It is a political coup for the Dems.

Gaetz, who only yesterday was going on about McCarthy’s “secret deal” with Democrats, had no qualms sitting on the opposition side of the House plotting to oust a speaker who holds a rickety five-seat majority. If there was actually a brewing House rebellion, Gaetz would have been able to corral far more votes.

But Gaetz wanted to “break the fever” of DC, so he teamed up with minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, “the squad,” and Adam Schiff, and so on. Jeffries claimed he was supporting Gaetz’s efforts because Republicans have shown an “unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair.

The notion that Democrats are backing a leading MAGA loyalist because they want to temper the “extremism” of Republicans makes about as much sense as Jamaal Bowman’s fire alarm story. Democrats keep pretending they yearn for a more responsible GOP and stable political environment, then keep supporting every fringe effort and candidate to undermine both.

Of course, no one is owed anything. McCarthy isn’t the only person available in DC to serve as a middling Speaker of the House. And, frankly, if he’d been more talented at the job, he might have headed off this challenge more effectively. But it’s doubtful anyone is going to perform better with a slender majority and the Senate and presidency in Democrats’ hands.

But then again, none of that matters when you’re having a tantrum.

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