With the rise of the progressives within the Democrat Party, it seems America is heading down a path meant to destroy the nation. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has 103 members, headed by Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and while they don’t represent the majority in Congress, they are certainly the loudest.
One unlikely hero emerges as America’s best defense against the internal rot of progressivism. Enter House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
McCarthy didn’t enjoy a smooth ride to the speakership. He was rejected fourteen times before grasping the gavel, something that hadn’t happened in more than a century. His opponents were hesitant to vote for him, nervous about his past, and anxious to maintain control of the GOP agenda. The stakes were huge, with items such as term limits, the “motion to vacate,” and limiting the power of the House Speaker on the table.
McCarthy’s first big moment, the debt ceiling negotiations, was a monumental flop in many GOP minds. For weeks afterward, the threat of introducing a “motion to vacate,” which is basically a vote of no confidence designed to remove the Speaker, loomed over McCarthy’s head.
The Speaker was seen as weak for not holding fast to many GOP demands in negotiations, but he managed to drag a nonpartisan bill across the finish line by offering compromises. It didn’t offer the GOP the resounding victory they craved, but it was the best they could hope for when faced with default. Had a default happened, America would blame the GOP, despite Biden’s refusal to negotiate until the ninth inning.
This clear-headed thinking is the fundamental key to success for McCarthy. His moderate stance on immigration, crime, energy, and even COVID-19 mandates makes it easier for Democrats to break from party lines and support his legislative efforts. He is focused on ways to keep Republicans in control of the House in 2024 rather than attempting to pass dead-end legislation with a narrow majority.
It’s the long game, and it’s one that Democrats are particularly good at.
Even though GOP victories are small in scale, under McCarthy, they are generally met with relatively little pushback from Democrats. He has repeatedly shown the ability to compromise and win the support of moderate Democrats. This limits the power of the progressives in Congress, who still are just a minority of the Democrat party.
One such victory was overturning Washington DC’s soft-on-crime policies within the district. Progressives and extremists on the left were unwilling to act on the City Council’s spongy rewrite of the criminal code, even as crime grew more rampant within the district. That all changed when President Biden, late to the party and noticing unhappy voters in DC, decided he would not veto a new crime bill. Democrats were then free to side with Republicans, breaking party lines, to pass tougher crime legislation.
Other victories that earned bipartisan support under McCarthy include ending the COVID-19 emergency, a resolution to denounce socialism, and blocking the administration’s push to ban gas stoves.
While Republicans are divided on some issues, including spending and Ukraine relief funds, they present a more united front than Democrats. Moderate Democrats are driving a rift between themselves and progressives, drawing a line in the sand by siding with Republicans. It’s a line that radicals have, so far, been largely unable to cross.
Causing the Democrats to fight amongst themselves is a hallmark of McCarthy’s leadership. Dan Conston, president of the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC, noted, “It is normally easy to stay united in the minority, but Speaker McCarthy continues to find ways to divide Democrats and divide House Democrats from the White House.”
Democrats already had a few unpredictable members in Congress even before McCarthy deepened the divide. Moderate and level-headed members like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (previously D-AZ, now I-AZ) were notoriously difficult to push along the party lines. Sinema took it one step further by abandoning the Democrat party in December 2022 to register as an Independent. Manchin may or may not be running as a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election. The two senators were frequently threatened by then-House-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, widely, publicly condemned for not predictably falling into line.
As the Democratic party dissolves into separate entities, the progressives vs. the moderates, one leader emerges to unite centrists across party lines. McCarthy, the unsung hero of the House, is just getting started.