Should Democrats Save Kevin McCarthy?

Eric Medlin
3 min readSep 27

Even if they hate him?

Kevin McCarthy in 2021. Source: Flickr

Kevin McCarthy is clearly in the fight of his political life.

After decades of fighting to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, McCarthy is facing potential disaster over the next week. Hard-right members of his caucus want him gone. Republicans in the Senate do not want him to shut down the government. His approval ratings are dismal and he seems to not have an ally in the country. McCarthy needs to find some way to end the government shutdown while also avoiding a successful motion to vacate the chair that would end his leadership position.

One potential outlet for the Speaker is a vote that would garner Democratic support. McCarthy’s greatest constraining factor is his razor-thin majority in the House. He needs to win over all but four members of his caucus if he hopes to pass legislation with only Republican votes. With Democratic support, McCarthy could table distracting bills and stifle debate from Republican hardliners and pass a clean government funding bill, either in an omnibus package or with individual appropriations.

Of course, many Democrats are aghast at the idea of supporting McCarthy. They have noted McCarthy’s numerous outrageous statements against Democrats and attacks on Joe Biden. They do not trust any political figure allied with Donald Trump and are fully convinced he will renege on all of his promises. These political figures are excited to see Republicans cave and fall into disarray. The phrase “pass the popcorn” has been shorthand for Democratic enjoyment at watching the spectacle unfold.

But Democrats cannot prioritize schadenfreude over helping the country. Instead, they need to do what is best for the American people as well as the country’s political system. A vote for McCarthy may be able to do just that.

Voting for McCarthy would end the chances of a government shutdown before it even began. Democrats often cite accurate statistics about the effects of shutdowns on Americans and federal workers. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted on Twitter last week about some of these effects when she noted: “Last time [the government shut down], it drove people to food pantries and forced an $8b hit to the economy. They treat people missing paychecks like it’s no big deal.”

Eric Medlin

I’m a writer interested in the intersections of history, ideas, and politics. I publish every week.