Democracy only really works if the people consent to be governed.
If there is no consent given by the people, first there is chaos and then is tyranny. Human nature abhors a leadership vacuum.
The same is true when it comes to the leadership of the House of Representatives.
Weak leadership is a consequence of bad followership.
Republicans have to decide in the next several weeks whether they want to band together, support Kevin McCarthy and strengthen their hand as they plod forward in divided government, and hopefully improve their chances of keeping control of the People’s House or if they want to descend into chaos and give the Democrats back the keys to the majority kingdom.
This is a not a trivial decision point. The ability to stop the Biden agenda and perhaps recapture the White House in 2024 stands in the balance.
Republican members who sit in opposition to McCarthy’s nomination have to grow up.
Their continued intransigence is a huge Christmas gift to the radical left.
The process of picking leaders is well-established. You run for your party’s nomination and if you get the nomination to be Speaker, you run to be Speaker on the House floor. If you run for the nomination and you don’t get it, you don’t take your football and go home. That is not what people of character do. You accept the will of your colleagues and you support the candidate who they voted to nominate.
Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have to be your ideal candidate. Maybe he will be the greatest Speaker since Sam Rayburn or maybe he will have a short tenure, like Paul Ryan. We don’t know how the next two years will unfold.
We do know that a weakened Speaker will be a boon to the Democrats. We do know that more Republican chaos is good for progressives who want to move the country far to the left. We do know that when the GOP looks silly, unsteady or incapable of effectively government, the voters will overlook the opposition’s radical agenda and give them full control of the House and the Senate again.
When it comes to running the country, especially during divided government, it’s all a matter of negotiation. And the team that usually wins has the best gameplan, the sharpest messaging, the best policies and the most unity.
House Republicans already start in the weaker of the two positions. They only barely control the lower chamber. The Democrats have the White House and the Senate. So, unity in support of the Speaker is even more important, because a strong Speaker can deliver results. A weak Speaker made weaker by team members that refuse to support the team, will most likely soon be toppled.
I don’t know what the five conservatives who oppose McCarthy have against him. Maybe it’s a personal beef. Maybe it is a tactical disagreement. Maybe they don’t buy into his strategic vision. Maybe the think he is insufficiently conservative.
It doesn’t matter.
If they continue in their efforts to derail his accession, they will weaken the Republican Party. They will make it more difficult for Republicans to win legislative victories. And they will increase the likelihood that Democrats will recapture the House and that Joe Biden will win a second term as President.
I worked in the House Republican Leadership for 15 years. I saw first-hand how hard it was for those leaders to first build consensus within the conference and then negotiate with other side to deliver tangible results for their constituencies.
The teams that were in most disarray at the beginning of a new session of Congress were typically the ones who didn’t last long in the majority. The leaders that were forced to cater to the whims of the tiniest faction of their caucuses were the ones who had the most trouble proving that they could govern and quickly lost favor with vast bulk of the voters.
The conservatives who think their opposition to Kevin McCarthy will somehow help the conservative cause are wrong. Their continued opposition is only helping the Democrats.
John Feehery served as press secretary to Speaker Denny Hastert and is now publishes The Feehery Theory which can be accessed at https://thefeeherytheory.substack.com