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McCarthy Quits: The Tea Party and Republican Wreckers Seize Control

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/10/2015 Richard Brodsky
KEVIN MCCARTHY © Bloomberg via Getty Images KEVIN MCCARTHY

Kevin McCarthy's decision to pull out of the House Speaker race is a genuine political surprise only if you have ignored the steady move of the Republican Caucus from hard right-wing ideology to wrecker. The notion that McCarthy is somehow insufficiently conservative ignores his consistent ultra-conservative positions on economic issues (he's a consistent, outspoken cut spending, cut taxes on the rich, austerity bug), on social issues (he's an anti-abortion, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage absolutist) and politically (his anti-Obama, anti-Hillary credentials are impeccable).
So what's the problem?
In the end, he was, in the mind of key House Republicans, insufficiently militant, insufficiently partisan. It's not your positions that matter any more. It's about your willingness to compromise. It's about your willingness to shut down government. It's about elevating the interest of the Republican Conference above the interest of the country. It's about what it means to hold elected office in a democracy.
Keep in mind that House Republicans do not believe in majority rule. The 40 extreme wreckers do not command a majority of votes in the House. They do not even command a majority of the Republican members of the House. If the key issues of Planned Parenthood, debt ceiling raise, gun background checks etc were put to clean votes a coalition of Democrats and Republicans would reject the position of the Republican wreckers.
They don't believe in that kind of democracy. They believe in the primacy of their version of the Republican Party. Listen to McCarthy himself, as he dropped out today: "We should put the [Republican] Conference first." Not the country. Not the House. The Republican Conference.
I do not share the political and social views of House Republicans. More deeply, I understand, from years of service in elected office, that without a willingness to compromise democracy ceases to function. I understand, as most Americans do, that a government run by small, militant factions will fail.
The most likely turn of events is to turn John Boehner into the indispensable man. He will probably stay beyond his announced retirement date. But there's no clear path to a working government. The second most likely option is a reluctant Paul Ryan takes over.
These problems will last longer than the succession fight. The functionality of the House is in play. The burden falls now on those Republican House members who remember that their oath of office obligated them to the American people not to "the Conference". Take a guy like Peter King of New York. He understands his obligation as a House member to govern. He has, unfortunately, let the 40 wreckers take control of his party and the House. If he and like-minded Republicans stand up to the wreckers, there may be a way out of all this. If not, chaos will reign and America will resemble a failed state rather than the beacon of democracy it has been.

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