Everyone seems to have concluded that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be elevated to Speaker McCarthy, and this likely result raises an obvious question: Was it all worth it? Is McCarthy really that much of an upgrade over Boehner that this is cause for celebration?
Even if Tom Price becomes majority leader, a McCarthy-Price team is only, maybe, marginally more conservative than a Boehner-McCarthy team. It seems predictable that one day in the not too distant future, Ted Cruz and the Freedom Caucus will be angry when the new bosses raise the debt ceiling — or fail to defund whatever liberal program is on the hot seat that day. How long before McCarthy becomes the new Boehner?
On the other hand, maybe this change would matter. Rank-and-file conservatives aren’t happy with their leadership, and blame must be assigned. Somebody has to pay. So maybe pushing Boehner out — regardless of whether or not he’s replaced by someone better — will be cathartic and satisfying. Maybe, having gotten this off their chest, they settle down and get to work? Or maybe it’s just a matter of time before they take down McCarthy, too? It’s unclear.
There’s an old Churchill line about appeasers feeding an alligator, hoping he eats them last. But the truth is that while such human sacrifices can embolden your enemies to come back for another scalp, sometimes the flesh actually satiates them.
In sports, if a team isn’t doing well, you fire the manager. You do this because you have to do something, and it sends a message. The fact that you can rarely blame all a team’s struggles on the manager hardly matters (which is why the Nats should fire their manager and the general manager — for giving him that sticking bullpen).
Sometimes change, in and of itself, can shake things up. Sometimes winning is as much about chemistry as it is about substance. If you like a guy personally, you’ll give him more leeway. If a guy wronged you in the past, you’ll be skeptical of him forever. Who cares if he’s no more conservative than the last guy?
If you saw Kevin McCarthy on Special Report yesterday or Morning Joe today, two things are clear: 1) He’s a smoother, more polished wholesale politician than Boehner — the kind of guy who could even run for president, and 2) he keeps repeating the message that he will change the culture and bring people together.
You will notice that this is all more stylistic than substantive. But leadership style matters. Culture matters. Sometimes people just want a change. Maybe that will be enough. Kevin McCarthy might be just what Republicans need.