Absolute Power?

Or, why Joanna McClinton has more class in her pinky toe than Kevin McCarthy has in his entire body…

Now that 2022 has come and gone, and we’ve drank all the egg nog and complained about how much it cost to buy eggs to make it, it’s time to install all the leaders that we voted for in the 2022 Midterms.

If you’re like me, that means that you’ve got the television remote in hand so that you can switch between the Pennsylvania Cable Network (for local stuff) and CSPAN (for national stuff). If you’re really like me, you’re also monitoring your Twitter feed because nothing goes better with politics than good sarcasm.

So, I sat last week with remote in hand, the Twitter feed up, and a bag of snacks (Bugles Sweet and Salty Caramel crunchies and a cup of black, French Vanilla coffee, of course) and watched the swearings-in.

The ceremonies for both Houses of Representatives — Pennsylvania’s and Washington’s — had their share of surprises. But it was how the surprised handled them that made me decide that If it’s a choice between giving the keys to the car of state to someone like state Majority Leader Joanna McClinton and federal Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, McClinton would get the keys every time.

I say this because while she didn’t become the first Black woman to hold the Speaker’s gavel in Pennsylvania, McClinton can walk through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with her head held high while McCarthy has bent so far backward to get his position that chiropractors are going to be studying his spine — or lack thereof — for years.

When the Democrats won the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the Midterms, one of the things that folks were anticipating was that McClinton would make history by taking the speaker’s gavel.

There was only one problem with that, or should I say three.

You see, unlike Philadelphia, which requires you to resign your office or city job if you decide to run, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows you to run for whatever other office you might want to occupy in addition to running for the one you have. It’s a form of job security, I guess.

But when you win that other office, it makes things difficult. For example, when Austin Davis became the Commonwealth’s first Black Lt. Governor and Summer Lee became a Congresswoman, that left two openings in the House. Add the death of State Rep. Tony DeLuca, which occurred before he could be taken off the ballot, and you have a recipe for, well, needing a compromise candidate for Speaker of the Pennsylvania House.

That wasn’t going to be McClinton. So, when State Rep. Mark Rozzi of Berks County was put out as a compromise candidate, he won the office. Depending on who you talk with, Rozzi intends to be a truly independent Speaker of the House and won’t caucus with Democrats or Republicans, while remaining a registered Democrat. While that might change when special elections are held in February, McClinton didn’t offer to sell her soul to gain power now.

The same can’t be said for U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy,

For the first time in a long time, it took almost a week for the House of Representatives to have a leader. And if he was honest with himself, McCarthy knew this was how it was going to go down because several far-right Republicans let him know shortly after the Midterms that they couldn’t count on their votes for speaker.

But it didn’t stop him from running. Last Monday, the first vote was taken. And he lost.

By Wednesday, we were up to vote number 7. He lost that one too. But McCarthy threw in some sweetners to the Matt Gaetzs and Lauren Boeberts of the world in the form of stuff that the separation of powers actually prohibits.

By vote number 13, fisticuffs were ensuing.

But by vote number 15, McCarthy got the votes he needed to be Speaker of the House by promising everything from giving his opponents control of the Rules Committee to making it even harder to reach a human being at the Internal Revenue Service by cutting the money set aside to hire 87,000 IRS agents.

(Well, McCarthy is one of Donald Trump’s partisans. No one wants to avoid the truth about his taxes more than him.)

Maybe it’s just me, but when a group of people tells me they’re not interested in what I have to offer once or twice, that’s it for me. There’s only so much rejection I’m going to take from you before I get the message.

Obviously, McCarthy isn’t me because I would have realized sometime around vote number 5 that the position wasn’t worth it. By the time that McCarthy won the speakership, he had given up so much that all one of his opponents has to do is call for a no-confidence vote, and he’s got to go through the process all over again.

If this isn’t the textbook definition of “pyrrhic victory”, I don’t know what is.

For the next two years (or one at least), we’re going to see how this works out for both McClinton and McCarthy.

But most importantly, we’ll see how this works out for Pennsylvania and the country.

Somehow, I think Pennsylvania will fare better.

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