The first-of-a-kind dethroning of a US House speaker shows that Americans don?t want to write blank checks for Ukraine
In a vote of 216-210, Republicans voted with 208 Democrats in the US House of Representatives to regime-change one of their own - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). McCarthy had tried appeasing the establishment over Ukraine funding while also paying lip-service to the populists to whom he owed his job as House speaker - and has just been rewarded with the honor of being the first dethroned speaker in US history. It's a victory for the average American - unless you're an establishment hack, in which case it's all about Russia.
"The Chinese are happy, the Russians are happy, the Iranians are happy. Americans should be mad as hell that these eight people did this to our country," said Rep. Dan Bacon (R-NE). How dare anyone derail the establishment policies when they've made everything so great for the average American. McCarthy's supporters accuse opponents within his own party of fundraising off his ouster. If Americans are willing to reward the ouster by donating to those responsible, then it would seem that they aren't actually "mad as hell" and it's establishment Republicans who are offside.
How fitting is it that the last straw in McCarthy's case seems to be allegations, evoked by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) that he had gone behind the GOP's back to the Biden administration to work something out on the continued stream of aid to Ukraine, which had been shamelessly tacked on to the budget legislation that would keep the federal government running for at least another 45 days. The Ukraine funding provision had been the sticking point that had been preventing Republicans from approving the bill until McCarthy stripped it out. But then Gaetz accused McCarthy of making a deal with Biden to revive a vote on yet another round of aid for Ukraine in a separate House vote.
If Biden wanted to take the risk of tacking support for Ukraine on to the bill that he figured that lawmakers would be forced to pass lest the alternative be a shutdown of the whole government, then he should have had to assume the full consequences of that gamble. Let the government shut down because the American president figured that its funding is as important as Ukraine's - and that paying American bureaucrats would be directly tied to lawmakers' willingness to keep paying Kiev's. Then when those who feel that they best represent the growing constituency of American voters who are increasingly against more cash for Kiev as they feel the pinch of their own worsening economic situation brought about by misguided establishment policies reject the two-headed legislative abomination - then let them place the blame squarely in Biden's lap for even taking the risk of conjuring it up in the first place.
McCarthy has denied the backroom dealing, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck... McCarthy arguably wouldn't have even been in the job had it not been for promising the populist faction of the GOP - the Freedom Caucus - that he wouldn't give Ukraine a "blank check." But he seemed influenced by the criticism of establishment GOP fixtures like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). "The idea that the party is now no longer going to support the Ukrainian people. For somebody who has the picture of Ronald Reagan on his wall in his office in the Capitol, the notion that now Kevin McCarthy is going to make himself the leader of the pro-Putin wing of my party is just a stunning thing," Cheney said in an interview last year. Suddenly, McCarthy was running around comparing Putin and Ukraine to Adolf Hitler and World War II in the same way that a teenager boy who's told he's effeminate overcompensates by weightlifting and aggressively hitting on girls. It's like McCarthy had something to prove. And as everyone knows, that usually means that under the surface there's something else going on - an identity crisis or at the very least a lack of confidence in oneself or one's positions.
Cheney, meanwhile, lost her primary last year to a pro-Trump challenger, which is just more evidence of the growing disconnect between voters and those sent to Washington to represent their interests. In even trying to appease the likes of Cheney and triangulate or accommodate their establishment narratives and positions, McCarthy has only shown that he can't read the room when it comes to voters.
Clearly the Freedom Caucus giveth, but also taketh away. And the establishment GOP is now acting like it's being victimized by a small group of their own party's lawmakers who dare to stand in the way of the usual cronies ramming through whatever they want, regardless of how out of step it is with the party's growing populist base. The same base whose ideas have become so mainstream that they lifted Trump to the presidency in 2016 and have him running far ahead even now among GOP voters for 2024 despite his multiple legal woes.
The fact that Democrats' partisanship was successfully used against McCarthy by the Freedom Caucus to oust him just proves that the difference between the two main American parties matters much less these days when actors in both parties are constantly agreeing to ram through elements of an agenda that seems to mostly benefit the interests of Western establishment elites. So if they can unite in a bipartisan manner on that, then there shouldn't be any problem making common cause with those across the aisle who oppose it. Arguably, that's even the model for the defeat of the establishment agenda - for the right/left paradigm to take a backseat.
But if you ask McCarthy's backers, it's Putin who's thrilled - not average Americans who have just been spared, at least temporarily, seeing more of their tax cash tucked into Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky's cargo pants or laundered into those of military industrial complex cronies "for Ukraine." Apparently Putin-shaming one's opponents is losing its luster as a rhetorical weapon designed to dampen patriots' enthusiasm for taking out the trash.