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Never Trumpers Understood Kevin McCarthy’s Conference Better Than He Did

Who could possibly have predicted that the leopards would eat My Kevin’s face, too?
January 3, 2023
Never Trumpers Understood Kevin McCarthy’s Conference Better Than He Did
Composite / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

For years Kevin McCarthy, a blow-dried, donor-class Republican, has tried to maintain a hold on his increasingly bedraggled, QAnon-class conference by prostrating himself before Donald Trump—in increasingly ostentatious ways, so as to prove to his flock that he was an authentic convert to the One True Church of MAGA.

McCarthy calculated that this public self-abasement would be worth it because he would be rewarded in the end with the gavel and bust he had long coveted.

This afternoon he was rewarded instead with the type of humiliation we have not seen on the House floor in a century: Being forced to smirk through repeated public beatings at the hands of his own members.

Kevin is a man with many flaws, but on this day his fatal one was not heeding the lesson of the leopard-eating-faces allegory.

Those of us outside the party—whose faces were long ago masticated—had the distance to see this dynamic clearly. The days where “principled conservatives” huff and puff about CUTGO for a while and then surrender to an old guard master are long gone.

We knew that there was no sacrifice, no degradation that would satisfy Kevin’s leopards. He may have been able to cobble together the votes to get into the speaker’s office for a spell. And who knows, he might still? But he was never going to lead this party.

Because they were never going to put their trust in him. They would never give up one retruth, one Newsmax hit, or one scampac fundraising email for the betterment of the party. (Forget about the country.)

On Fox News on Tuesday morning, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tx.) expressed dismay over his Republican colleagues’ opposition to McCarthy, calling their actions “petty” and “childish,” and venting about how they are more concerned about notoriety than governing.

No shit, Sherlock. We’re all looking around to try to find out how that happened!

How might the new Republican conference have attracted these charlatans and con men and peacocking blowhards, I wonder?

McCarthy and Crenshaw and their ilk convinced themselves that they could throw in with the world’s biggest grifter, tell lie after lie (after lie) to their own voters, campaign for a boat of shithouse rats so crazy that they make yesterday’s crazies blush—and at the end be rewarded with their loyal support.


Their time was going to come eventually. For My Kevin, it appears that time is today.

He woke up on the biggest day of his life knowing he’d lose 5 votes on the first ballot and thinking he could lose 9 more. Throw in a wild card and the worst case was 15 no votes, when he could only afford to lose 4.

What he found is that crazy begets crazy. Once the floodgates opened the 5 Never Kevin votes had ballooned to an unthinkable 19. And then the same 19 voted against him a second time.

These 19 anarchists don’t have any tangible policy objections to a McCarthy speakership and neither do they have a realistic alternative. Their goal—their only goal—was to fight for the sake of fighting and show their constituents they are just as mad at the “elites” as they are. Their only alternative, Jim Jordan, is the man who oversaw the committee that expressed its vision for the party as “Kanye. Elon. Trump.”

In other words: exactly the type of members that this party has cultivated for the past eight years.

Responsible Republicans who want to run a governing party will eventually have to come to terms with the fact that there is no appeasing or accommodating their leopards. That no amount of submission to the orange idol that will do. That they are either in the boat with the lunatics or out here on the shore with the cucks.

In the meantime, the votes and the claw marks will continue until morale improves.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.