Representative Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly took himself out of the race to succeed John A. Boehner as House speaker, apparently undone by the same forces that drove Mr. Boehner to resign.When I read this, one of the first things that came to mind was a seemingly unrelated story that appeared in The Hill about a week ago:
... Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, said that in dropping out of race, Mr. McCarthy said, “I’m not the one to unify the party.”
A group of about 40 hard-line House conservatives announced Wednesday night that they would support Representative Daniel Webster of Florida, making it unclear whether Mr. McCarthy, who is from California, could assemble the 218 votes on the floor that he would need to be elected later this month.
The decision put the House of Representatives into a state of disarray....
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell joked that he identifies as a Republican to annoy the GOP’s right-wing.But here's the problem: The Republican Party doesn't care. The party in recent years has made its right-centrists -- Powell, Christie Whitman, William Weld -- increasingly unwelcome. And they did nothing to fight back, except occasionally stamp an ineffectual foot:
“Yes, I’m still a Republican,” he said about his party affiliation during the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C., according to the Daily Mail.
“I want to continue to be a Republican because it annoys them,” Powell quipped to host Walter Isaacson.
“I think the party has shifted much further right than where the country is and it should be obvious to party leaders that they cannot keep saying and doing the things that they were doing and hope to be successful in national-level election in the future, not just in 2016,” he added.
They ceded unchallenged control of the party to a mix of bomb-throwing radicals and conservatives who ceded power to those radicals while holding them just enough in check that they only burned some of the government (and the country) down.
And now we see that that wasn't enough for the radicals.McCarthy's fellow "Young Gun" Eric Cantor was primaried out of a job. Boehner fell on his sword to avoid having the zealots turn that sword on him. Hard-right presidential wannabes -- Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz -- have struggled as nihilist know-nothings such as Ben Carson and Donald Trump call for gun vigilantism, immigrant-bashing, and an unconstitutional religious test for the presidency.
Paul Ryan was the running mate Mitt Romney picked to shore up his conservative cred; he announced that he was going to give a nominating speech for McCarthy, but that didn't help. Dick Cheney was the hardest of the hardcore hawks in the last Repulican administration, serving a President Bush whose Oedipal battle against his father was clearly a rejection of right-centrism; Cheney endorsed McCarthy, but that didn't help.
I've long believed that, at some time in the past few years, Colin Powell should have called a press conference, along with other GOP right-centrists, to announce that the party was going in a dangerously radical direction and they were all severing their Republican ties. Powell has been one of America's most admired men for a generation; if he, Whitman, Weld, and others had done this, attention might have been paid.
But it's too late now. The GOP has purged the right-centrists and is in the process of purging everyone who's not the political equivalent of a terrorist. I have no idea where this ends.