tags: Press Releases

McCarthy, Stefanik, and the High Cost and Total Chaos of GOP Extremism

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Washington, DC – The ongoing drama over House Republicans’ leadership elections captures several related truths:

  • Republican extremism holds Congress hostage: The GOP’s coddling and embrace of the extreme fringes of their caucus is a major factor behind the chaos we are seeing unfold. For more, see a new HuffPost piece on how far-right influencers are gaining power in the new GOP caucus. As the piece reminds, nativism and anti-immigrant conspiracies are a fundamental component of the extreme worldview that is ascendant within the GOP. No matter how the GOP leadership elections turnout, the dynamic of the MAGA tail wagging the GOP dog is likely to continue.
  • Extremism was a political loser: The narrow margins of Republicans’ House majority trace back to the GOP’s embrace of extremism and extreme candidates – it turned a host of winnable 2022 midterm races for Republicans into electoral defeats. As our post-election report, “MAGA Extremism Failed at the Ballot Box” details, Republicans’ nativism and embrace of white nationalist rhetoric and conspiracies was one component of the GOP’s larger extremism that many voters – especially swing voters – rejected. 
  • Both Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Elise Stefanik embrace the politics of fear, lies, and extremism in their scramble to hold power in the new GOP. From empowering Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to issuing a blanket “no amnesty” pledge, Kevin McCarthy has coddled and adopted extremist lawmakers and positions in an effort to curry enough favor with the GOP fringes to gain the speakership. As the chaos indicates, it still may not be enough. Meanwhile, as an incisive New York Times profile from late December highlights, Rep. Stefanik’s transparent reinvention into a MAGA warrior has left her distrusted by many, including in Trump world. And as recent analysis from America’s Voice detailed, Stefanik had a particularly brutal win/loss record through the lens of her 2022 midterm candidate endorsements: in 28 of the 36 battleground Republican districts where she endorsed candidates, the Stefanik-endorsed candidate went down to defeat – a 78% loss rate. Many of the candidates Stefanik endorsed also adopted the same deadly white nationalist “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracies on immigrants in their campaign message as she did.

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“Republicans’ politics of fear, conspiracy theories and extremism is at the root of their underperformance in the 2022 midterms and the chaos on display this week. It’s only fitting that Rep. Stefanik is set to nominate Kevin McCarthy for Speaker – together, Stefanik and McCarthy are the perfect embodiment of the GOP’s descent and predicament. Their reinvention as MAGA extremists on immigration gave them political attack lines and allowed them to spout white nationalist conspiracy theories, but has undermined their ability to engage in the actual work of governing. They have empowered extremists more interested in the cynical politics of division than in the hard work of finding solutions. Their underwhelming win/loss record in the midterms leaves them with the limited majority stacked with the chaos they face today. Unless and until Republicans chart a different course away from extremism, the chaos will continue and the country will pay the price.”