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Murc’s law is a harsh mistress


Some people say Republicans are to blame for unanimously electing a drooling reactionary kook whose views are widely shared within his conference as Speaker of the House of Representatives, but Megan McArdle knows it’s the Democratic Party’s own damn fault:

That’s a lesson I hope Democrats are reflecting upon as they contemplate the man elected to replace McCarthy, as a result of their joining Gaetz’s motion to vacate. Mike Johnson of Louisiana is a hard-line social conservative who helped architect a legal challenge to the 2020 presidential election. He has less House experience than McCarthy and now has just a few weeks to figure out how to keep the government open after the bipartisan agreement that got McCarthy defenestrated expires on Nov. 17.

Democrats, of course, will bridle at the suggestion that they are in any way responsible for replacing McCarthy with someone even Trumpier and more conservative. Why don’t I blame Republicans for electing this guy? Why would I expect Democrats to bail out McCarthy when McCarthy didn’t even offer them anything?

This is the right question, although we have to add here that McCarthy not only wouldn’t offer them anything but constantly reneged on his deals with Democrats. What are they losing here, exactly?

But these are the wrong questions. Of course, Republicans chose Johnson. They own that. They also own the long years in which they have cravenly capitulated to Trump and his face-eating friends, allowing the leopards to devour their party from within. This was bad for Republicans and bad for America, especially after the leopards used this perch to mount an attack on the legitimacy of our elections, the very core of our democracy.

But the fact that Republicans made horrible choices does not absolve Democrats from any obligation to make good ones. Democrats are not amoebas, capable only of instinctive reactions to environmental stimuli; like Republicans, they understand cause and effect and ought to act on that understanding.

nd the truth is, it was a majority of Democrats, not a majority of Republicans, who provided the necessary votes to chuck out a relatively moderate speaker. A moment’s serious thought would have told them that this was likely to empower the Gaetz faction and hand the speaker’s gavel to someone significantly more conservative. Nonetheless, they decided to weigh in on the side of the leopards.

The thing Democrats understand that McArdle doesn’t is that Gaetz’s faction was already in control of the House. As soon as McCarthy — who supported the election theft efforts! — agreed to allow a single member to hold a vote to vacate, he was Gaetz’s sockpuppet (which presumably why he didn’t do anything to keep his job.) The only difference is that the new Speaker doesn’t have the perception of being “moderate” that comes his being part of what’s left of the Republican establishment. For Democrats, this is an improvement if anything. Johnson’s ideas are radical, dangerous, mostly unpopular, and generic for a House Republican. Let Johnson be the public face of the party, because his faction is the party. McArdle’s problem is that understanding this is inconsistent with her view that supporting Republicans will be fine if they can just get rid of Trump, and Murc’s Law is a handy way of trying to square the circle.

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