House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is already a liability for leading his members into an untenable position of supporting the attempted overthrow of an election. McCarthy stood at the head of a pack that wanted to pull off the largest disenfranchisement of Black voters since Jim Crow. As the New York Times reported in November:
In Pennsylvania, President Trump and Republicans loyal to him have sought to overturn his defeat by making false claims about widespread voting fraud in Philadelphia.In Georgia, they have sought to reverse his loss by leveling similar accusations against Atlanta.In Michigan, Republicans have zeroed in on Detroit, whose elections system the president has falsely portrayed as so flawed that its entire vote should be thrown out.Lost on no one in those cities is what they have in common: large populations of Black voters.
Try to imagine a corporation or prominent individual saying, “Sure I will give money to the guy who did that.” Businesses that raced to declare their commitment to racial justice after the Black Lives Matter protests will tremble at the thought that they could be tied to massive disenfranchisement and to a mob bearing Confederate regalia. Handing McCarthy a check would be the kiss of death for a company that wants to preserve its image as a pro-democracy, inclusive corporate citizen. That McCarthy, after all of this, would vote to keep Trump in office is a mind-boggling display of political stupidity.
Likewise, for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who signed on to throw out the votes of four states and who objected to the duly elected presidential ticket, her role as a powerbroker and fundraiser for female Republican candidates is likely over. What woman running for office is going to take money from a congresswoman who rejects democracy and then whines about getting thrown off a Harvard University advisory committee? Any minimally capable Republican congresswoman looking at Stefanik, on one hand, and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), on the other, will follow the latter and run from the former.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cannot appear to harbor Trump for a week, allowing him to leave office with the trappings of the presidency. The less decisive McConnell looks and the longer he delays an impeachment trial, the more he looks like insurrectionist cheerleaders Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). In addition, McConnell cannot allow one of his members who voted to disregard the voters’ choice for president, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), to be the chief money man and face of the Republican Senate reelection team. The same corporate and individual donors who will refuse to take McCarthy’s calls or write him checks will shun Scott. The only hope McConnell has of ever regaining his majority is to cut loose Trump and the most visible faces of the insurrection. He then needs the face of his Senate reelection effort to be a member smart enough to have eschewed sedition from the start. Doing otherwise puts all his members at risk.
House Republicans with any sort of survival instinct will vote to impeach Trump, jettison his primary accessories (McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana) from leadership, expel any members in cahoots with the seditious plotters and reaffirm, unanimously, the accuracy and integrity of the 2020 results.
Given the smaller number of seditious members in the Senate, McConnell’s task is far easier: Conduct a quick Senate trial; convict Trump and ban him from future office; expel Cruz and Hawley; and then vote to censure others who tried to deny voters the president and vice president they chose. McConnell should do these things not because it is the only moral, decent course, but because he is smarter than McCarthy and knows that to do any less would starve his members of financial support and set them up for losses from pro-democracy primary challengers or Democrats. And we know one thing: McConnell is not dumb.