This week, ousted Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy learned a valuable lesson: A deal with the devil is never done until it bleeds you dry.
McCarthy made that deal in 2021, several weeks after the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, when he flew down to Mar-a-Lago, shook hands with the man who incited that attack, and enlisted former President Donald Trump’s help in winning back the House majority in 2022.
It was Team Trump that took a picture memorializing that deal and then circulated it as a way of saying Trump now owned "my Kevin," as he sometimes called McCarthy. At the time, Trump needed to reassert his dominance of GOP leaders after they had toyed with the idea of actually voting to impeach him for siccing a mob on the Capitol that nearly overthrew the government. But ultimately, Republicans like McCarthy who lacked the backbone to hold Trump to account decided it was more expedient to just welcome the insurrectionist-in-chief back into the fold.
After that, Trump and McCarthy both leveraged the deal to suck the nectar dry from it. McCarthy, for instance, fundraised off of Trump's image, which Trump hated but the National Republican Campaign Committee kept doing nonetheless. And when McCarthy looked all but defeated in his bid to become speaker, he called on Trump to rein in the rabble-rousers.
In return, Trump, as Politico notes, got McCarthy to leverage his influence in California to change the party's delegate distribution rules to benefit Trump. The state party used to take a proportional approach, but in 2024, any candidate who secures a majority of votes statewide will get all 169 delegates.
But when it came time for McCarthy to call on Trump to save his speakership amid an internal rebellion, McCarthy simply hadn't proven servile enough in recent months to call in another massive favor. Politico writes:
While Trump had demanded that Republicans shut down the government if they didn’t get major spending cuts, McCarthy had forged a deal only to fund the government at current spending levels for 45 days. And, more significantly, while Trump’s orbit had been expecting McCarthy to endorse him in the presidential primary, the speaker had so far kept his powder dry.
Maybe McCarthy's speakership was doomed at the outset after he gave every single member of the Republican caucus veto power over his leadership post.
But ultimately, it was McCarthy's Mar-a-Lago groveling that sealed his fate. Democrats never forgave him for it, giving him no purchase on the left, and McCarthy would never be able to placate Trump in perpetuity once he had squeezed the life out of their deal, zeroing out McCarthy’s political capital on the right.
What the devil giveth, the devil eventually taketh away.
Sign if you agree: So long, Kevin!