The Fascist That Didn’t Bark

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Donald Trump attend a signing ceremony for the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act in the Oval Office on April 24, 2020. (Photo ... House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Donald Trump attend a signing ceremony for the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act in the Oval Office on April 24, 2020. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/POOL/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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If all goes according to schedule, the Biden-McCarthy deal will go to a vote tomorrow evening. Yes, we see this or that member complaining, perhaps a dozen or two either announcing or signaling their opposition. So far though it’s all quite low energy — far more performative and box-checking than any true effort to scuttle this deal or punish its author. There is of course one person who on his own could potentially change the dynamic: Donald Trump.

It’s very noteworthy that so far, as far as I can tell, he’s said basically nothing. I don’t think that’s because it escaped his notice. He could definitely still jump in. But there’s very little time left and he’s already had upwards of a week.

Here are a few points to keep in mind.

Point #1: Kevin McCarthy is the Tom Wambsgans of House speakers. He is craven, completely bereft of dignity and up for any humiliation you have on offer. I don’t want to do any spoilers. But you know how he ended up. McCarthy has remained very close to Trump and it’s likely paying off here. By “close” here I simply mean always in touch. There have been a handful of reports through this process that McCarthy had phone chats with Trump during the deal making. Needless to say, if he’s managed to keep Trump on side, that will be a big advantage for him.

Point #2: It goes without saying that Trump couldn’t give a crap about any of this. Trump’s guiding star is always his own personal benefit. But some issues still have more traction than others. Whether that’s because he actually has some residual concern for them or just recognizes they are important to his political brand is irrelevant for these purposes. Fiscal policy, debt and deficits matter to him least of anything. So there’s no need for Trump to get involved here. If it looked like it were sinking on the right he’d definitely jump in to get a piece of it. But other than that he simply may not care. The risks of intervening are also real even though there’s not a lot of upside.

Point #3: It had occurred to me that DeSantis might be the one to come out against this rather than Trump. There’s a certain logic to that. He’s literally a Freedom Caucus guy. It’s more authentic to him. It could be a way to distinguish himself. But that’s not happening either.

Point #4: One point is staring us in the face. This Republican Party cares a lot less about fiscal policy than even the old GOP. The post-1970s GOP was always opportunistic and hypocritical about spending and debt. These days, though, they barely care about it enough to manage the hypocrisy. Consider DeSantis: that whole terrain of politics is totally absent from his presidential pitch. To the extent the current GOP wants to re-form the federal government the energy is entirely on purging it of non-conservatives, Deep Staters and the like. Authoritarian politics, anti-BLM and gender culture war politics, the border. Those are the Republican issues. A necessary though not sufficient explanation of how McCarthy seems able to sell this agreement is that basically no one in the GOP actually cares about the thing they were demanding.

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