Last week, former House speaker Kevin McCarthy attended the New York Times’s DealBook event where he was interviewed by Andrew Ross Sorkin. During their discussion, McCarthy reminisced about a striking observation he made during the 2019 State of the Union. “…I look over at the Democrats and they stand up. They look like America. We stand up. We look like the most restrictive country club in America.”
The observation isn’t as new or striking to America as it apparently is to the country club, at least to this prominent, soon-to-be former member. McCarthy also announced on Wednesday that he is leaving office by the end of the year. And truth telling on the way out the door like this has become commonplace for Republicans during its Trump era. I’m sure we will hear more of his truths in the coming weeks and months.
What would be stark to me would be a more honest conversation of the lack of demographic representation from those McCarthy is leaving behind. But waiting for the truth from the country club shouldn’t inspire Americans to hold its breath in anticipation.
“The Club” is more apt to declare war on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training, and anything else it can weirdly label with their weirdly created negative adjective of “woke,” than it is to adjust. Just ask Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana’s third district. Rarely does a day go by without him defending the whiteness, the maleness, of a government made up of far too much of both.
Maybe we should ask Rep. Elise Stefanik, the House GOP Caucus Chair, what she thinks about McCarthy’s parting shots. She is likely still celebrating her takedown of the presidents of three elite, private universities during a congressional hearing last week for not fighting antisemitism enough on their campuses. University of Pennsylvania’s president resigned over the issue this weekend, while leaders at Harvard and MIT continue to hang on to their jobs by a thread.
I had a Republican friend complain to me about Democrats “continued move toward antisemitism” being alarming last week. It forced me to identify the absurdity of that notion. According to Pew Research, there are 33 Jewish members of Congress. 31 of them are Democrats.
The exhausting groupthink that occurs in a group that is already alarmingly homogeneous contributes an infinite supply of fuel to the nation’s divisiveness. McCarthy didn’t become the caucus leader in 2019 and then the speaker in 2023 because of any policy platform, negotiation talent or inspirational leadership skills. He just happened to be at the front of this mob’s line. In other words, he didn’t stand for anything other than it being his turn. When that came to an end, his membership in the club ended with it.
My wife and I saw John Oliver in concert on December 3rd, and he gave some truths on the topic that were hilarious, primarily because they’re true. First, he said, “Half the country says, ‘we’ve never been this divided’…and then the other half agrees.” Let that sink in for a moment. Then he followed that with, “America is the most defiant country on Earth, and I know this because I can feel so many of you saying to yourselves: ‘no we’re not.’”
Clubs are divisive. They are exclusive. They are often defined by the experiences of their members, which is a kind way to describe “biases.” America is filled with clubs, though America itself has historically and famously been the opposite of exclusive. You know, the land of the free.
Our independence and our defiance are things that I always thought made us exceptional. Among the things that is becoming more vividly different about the two parties is one party’s diversity and the other party’s lack of it.
Philip Bump wrote a detailed piece in the Washington Post this week following McCarthy’s interview. The story included several data points that are almost frightening to visualize.
One look at this graph should inspire the team on the right to do all of the things necessary to understand Americans who aren’t members of their team. Instead, it is the mantra of the club to fight the things that improve that understanding. Exit interviews of club leaders are now the only place that mantra seems to veer.
Kevin McCarthy ascended to the front of the line by recognizing the groupthink that had engulfed the group. He successfully managed those who ultimately were the deciders of their club’s pecking order. That was his primary skill that served both his ascension and his demise.
Until this group can recognize its most fundamental flaws and begin addressing them, it won’t matter all that much who holds its gavel.