In the wake of the stunning exit of McCarthy from the leadership race, fingers are pointing and blame is flying like crazy. The media is happily carrying the narrative that the current chaos in the House GOP is the result of the conservative caucus being intractable and unreasonable, even though no one knows for sure why McCarthy ultimately exited.
Here is the problem with this narrative: it is directly contradicted by the facts. The Freedom Caucus united behind Webster, as is their right. At no point did any of them suggest, publicly or privately, that if they did not get their wish they would forge a coalition with Democrats to elect Pelosi or someone else as speaker. They asked, as reasonable concessions, to be given more committee assignments and for the regular order of debate to be restored. However, all indications were clear that they would have worked out their differences with leadership within the actual Republican caucus.
Immediately after McCarthy’s announcement, CNN’s Dana Bash caught “moderate” [mc_name name=’Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000604′ ] (R-PA) in the hall and asked him about these developments, and his spoiled brat response demonstrated very clearly that the moderates are the reason right now that the caucus is in chaos:
Among other things Dent said during the course of this incredible tirade, he explicitly stated that he would rather elect a Speaker with the help of Democrats than with the help of conservative Republicans:
“The next Speaker should not appease those who make unreasonable demands. There are a number of members of our conference. You cannot get the yes on anything. For them the end will be the good. In my view it’s come time to marginalize those members who doesn’t want to be part of the governing majority.”
“We might have to assemble a bipartisan coalition on the floor to elect the next speaker then. I mean, that’s what it could come down to.”
I don’t know what will happen. Anything is possible now. It’s pretty clear to me that a number of us are not going to simply appease or exceed to those who will make unreasonable demands. And so I suspect in order to govern around here we need a bipartisan coalition on all major bills. If we can’t get 218 Republican votes for a Speaker, then we’ll have to try other options. I don’t know what those options are, but I certainly don’t want to put somebody in the Speaker’s job who is going to appease those who are making unreasonable demands.
This is not how any of the conservatives have behaved. They have not threatened to cut a deal with [mc_name name=’Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000197′ ] to put her or another moderate Dem in the chair in exchange for getting what they wanted. They merely negotiated from the position of whatever strength they had in order to try to get something from leadership in exchange for their votes. In return they were repaid with this kind of rhetoric from moderates like [mc_name name=’Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000604′ ], who also moseyed over to MSNBC to share his pearls of wisdom about House conservatives for all the Democrats to see.
Several years ago, I wrote this about moderates in the Republican party, and nothing has changed:
While I am a conservative, I respect and understand the concept of coalition politics. In other words, I believe in the concept of hashing things out in the primaries between conservatives and moderates, and (with a few exceptions) voting for the lesser of two evils in the general. Sometimes you win the primaries, sometimes you lose, and there is almost never a benefit to taking your ball and going home. This year, conservatives get [mc_name name=’Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’L000577′ ], [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ], and Joe Miller. Moderates get Carly Fiorina, [mc_name name=’Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’K000360′ ], and (probably) Mike Castle. I don’t know a lot of conservatives out there who are going to donate money to and/or vote for [mc_name name=’Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B000711′ ], Alexi Giannoulias or Chris Coons out of spite. The worst thing they will do is just pretend that the election doesn’t exist.
By far the biggest problem the Republican coalition has right now is moderates who refuse to accept defeat at the hands of conservatives. Think Dede Scozzafava endorsing the Democrat in NY-23. Think Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter bailing the party and running against the Republican when it became clear that they would lose their primaries. Think Lincoln Chafee currently running as an independent for Governor of Rhode Island despite the NRSC spending millions to help him defeat a conservative in the primary. I defy Meghan McCain to identify a conservative candidate who acted or behaved in this way towards the party after a primary loss.
I know many decent moderates who I get along with well who understand this principle. But in my admittedly anecdotal experience, moderates are far more likely to fail to understand that they need conservatives than conservatives are to fail to realize that they need moderates.
Conservatives accept the results of intra-party contests. Moderates don’t. That’s why there’s chaos in the caucus right now. That’s why no one knows which direction to turn. No one currently in leadership or in a position to appeal to moderates knows how to even negotiate with conservatives in good faith, or to treat them like people whose desires are entitled to as much consideration as snot nosed [mc_name name=’Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000604′ ]’s. Instead it’s “our way or the highway” and before conservatives can even make a choice, moderates are rushing before the eager TV cameras of the liberal media to condemn those crazy unreasonable tea partiers.
The conservatives are not the problem in the House GOP caucus – it’s the moderates who don’t understand the concept of team play.