Indignity Vol. 3, No. 2: There's Always Another Round of Losing for Kevin McCarthy


Indignity Vol. 3, No. 2: There's Always Another Round of Losing for Kevin McCarthy

If he wins, it just gets worse.

IT’S HARD TO say what's going on in the House of Representatives, or what will go on, but one fact has held true, so far, as a benchmark for what's possible: there has not—through 13 votes and on toward the 14th round—been any positive alternative to electing Kevin McCarthy Speaker of the House. Today's designated Republican protest candidate, Jim Jordan, didn't even vote for himself. In the New York Times presentation of the voting results, nobody bothered to draw a "needed to win" line on the bar graph for anyone other than McCarthy.

McCarthy has spent the week trapped in a struggle not against some persistent rival, but against the evidently more attractive figure of Not Kevin McCarthy. This has kept events in a superimposed state of predictability and unpredictability. Way back on Tuesday, when the situation was still new, CBS's Robert Costa, citing "several sources," suggested Democrats might get bored and stop showing up—a memorably and emphatically wrong take, in the midst of everyone else's tentative and confused speculation.

Rumors of bargains or of shifts in sentiment would emerge from sources close to McCarthy overnight, then shrivel in the light of day, as each roll call more or less repeated the roll call before: a plurality of 212 steady Democratic votes for the presumptive minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, some slightly lesser number in the 200-to-210 range for McCarthy, and an assortment of protest votes and present votes to keep McCarthy from winning. As soon as McCarthy had been mathematically eliminated from getting the necessary 218 votes, C-Span would declare that fact and start teasing the next round.

Yesterday, the rhythm of the chyron drummed itself into my brain until I had to write a poem:

McCarthy does not have the votes
The hours stretch into days
The House cannot be seated
Yet on its benches stays

McCarthy does not have the votes
The members cough and buzz
The count will be repeated
No matter what he does

McCarthy does not have the votes
The stone rolls down the hill
To where it last receded
And where next time it will

McCarthy does not have the votes
The names drone on and on
Unceasingly defeated
But never, ever gone

The poem turned out to be wrong, too; the count today began to move McCarthy's way, pushing him ahead of Jeffries. His opposition dwindled from an organized and steadfast bloc to what could be described as a handful of malcontents. For the first time in days, voting for McCarthy may seem like the less unattractive option than voting against him.

What will, or would, all these days of humiliation mean if he wins? The one thing McCarthy has fully established is that he doesn't have the knack for assembling 218 votes—that is, for doing the central daily job of the Speaker of the House. And this band of holdouts in the Speaker's race, the Even-More-Freedom Wing of the Freedom Caucus, isn't the only fractious element in the House Republicans. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been behaving herself on this one! She and many other Trumpists decided to accept Donald Trump's endorsement of McCarthy. When some issue inevitably comes up on which Trump declares himself against McCarthy, what will the Speaker's vote share be? What powers will he have left to do anything about it, after bargaining them away in concessions to his tormenters?

As Jonathan M. Katz wrote, comparing the McCarthy squeeze to the cascade of cynical compromises that produced Israel's incoming beyond-far-right government of ethnonationalist fanatics and crooks, "this is the problem when your sole governing ideals are destroying your enemies, dismantling the regulatory state, and committing as much graft as possible in the meantime." The Republican Party hasn't even put out a platform in the past two election cycles; its current stars like Lauren Boebert have never had the experience of pursuing some agreed-upon set of party policy goals.

If you don't have a legislative agenda, who cares if Congress is up and running or not? What difference does it make how long it takes the members to get sworn in, as long as it gets sorted out in time to put on the Hunter Biden hearings in 2024?



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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from The W.R.C. Cook Book, Recipes Contributed by The Ladies of Cushing Relief Corps No. 3 Auxiliary to Grand Army of the Republic, Astoria, Oregon, March, 1912, found in the public domain and available at for the delectation of all.

“They talk about a woman’s sphere
As though it had a limit;
There’s not a place in earth or heaven,
There’s not a task to mankind given,
There’s not a blessing or woe,
There’s not a whisper, ‘Yes’ or ‘No;
There’s not a feather’s weight of worth,
There’s not a life, a death, a birth,
Without a woman in it.”

CHEESE SANDWICHES.— Grate tenderest celery stalks, mix with equal bulk of Neufchatel cheese, season with chopped olives and lemon juice, an olive and a teaspoonful of lemon juice to every four tablespoonfuls of the mixture. Spread on buttered slices, add a little mayonnaise or a little French mustard.

BACON AND EGGS.— Two eggs, hard boiled; two strips bacon, fried; one-half teaspoon made mustard. Chop eggs and bacon, mix with mustard and a little bacon fat. Spread between slices. Good for fishing or hunting trips.—M. S.

RUSSIAN SANDWICHES.— Chop olives fine and moisten with mayonnaise. Cut bread into thin narrow strips, spread one-half with chopped olives and the rest with caviar. Press together in pairs.

EGG SANDWICHES.— Boil three fresh eggs for 15 minutes. When cold, remove the shells and pound the yolks and whites together in a mortar or basin, with one tablespoonful of butter until quite smooth. Then add salt, pepper, a little paprika and grated nutmeg. Spread the mixture on thinly cut bread and butter, press well and trim them. Cut into neat pieces and serve on a napkin, garnished with sprigs of parsley.

If you decide to prepare and enjoy a sandwich or sandwiches inspired by these offerings, kindly send a picture to us at

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