Kevin McCarthy And Albert Einstein: The Political Odd Couple

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Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy is being called a lot of names by many of his Republican colleagues, but “Albert Einstein” is clearly not one of them. And yet, he may well go down in American political history as the textbook example of what Einstein once termed as insane behavior.

On the off-chance that you are not familiar with how Einstein defined insanity, here it is: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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The Amazing Performance Of Kevin McCarthy

Does that ring any bells? Whether it does or does not, please consider the amazing performance Congressman McCarthy began orchestrating at noon on Tuesday. He called for six consecutive votes for the election of a House Speaker, and in each of them he fell short of a majority.

Indeed, not only has his vote total been trending downward, but his Democratic rival, Hakim Jeffreys has been polling about ten votes ahead of him.

Does McCarthy have some secret plan to storm from behind and snatch the house speakership from his opponents? Does holding vote-after-vote serve any purpose at all?

I truly believe that this is politically insane behavior, and if Einstein were alive today, he would be quite amused. Maybe McCarthy would even give him a private tour of the Capitol in the hopes of getting his endorsement.

You may have seen my tongue-in-cheek article “Ten Key Ways to Resolve the House Speaker Stalemate,” which appeared in ValueWalk on Tuesday. “Ten Key Ways To Resolve The House Speaker Stalemate.”

Well, it sure looks as though the members of the House of Representatives have not taken my advice. But, in fairness, perhaps Herschel Walker, Lauren Boebert, and George Santos may not have been the best House Speaker candidates – even in today’s Republican Party.

But there were, among these ten suggestions, three that a majority of House Republicans and Democrats might consider acceptable. Indeed, even the seemingly implacable Kevin McCarthy might find these three worthy of consideration.  

  1. Find four or five far right-wing Democratic Representatives willing to vote for McCarthy. What would they get in exchange? The chairmanship of a prestigious committee or subcommittee? A shitload of money for their home district? Or maybe even an under-the-table financial payoff.
  2. Find four or five malleable Republicans to join with all the Democrats to elect McCarthy as House Speaker. Would he agree to betray his own party just to become Speaker? You tell me!
  3. A variant of this arrangement would be to have McCarthy serve as Speaker for just one year, and then be replaced by a Democrat in 2024.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these alternatives. The first might work, but it surely would require more than just five Democratic votes. Since McCarthy has forced this voting marathon on the House, he has alienated perhaps a dozen more Republican colleagues than the original gang of five.

The second alternative is somewhat more promising. The big problem here is that it would not be all that palatable to most Congressional Democrats. Still, McCarthy as the Democratic Speaker would be a lot more palatable than McCarthy as the Republican Speaker.

That leaves us with the third – and most politically feasible alternative—anointing Mcarthy as Republican House Speaker for one year and a Democrat – presumably Democratic Leader Hakim Jeffreys – for the other year.

Please keep in mind that in the last few votes, Jeffreys received 212 or so votes, while McCarthy received around 203. So presumably, they are the top choices of their respective parties.

Israel provided a recent precedent for this power-sharing arrangement, when the leaders of two of the largest political parties of the wining coalition in a parliamentary election agreed to share power, with one serving as prime minister for about year, after which the other would become the prime minister.

That power-sharing arrangement is much easier to implement in a parliamentary form of government than in ours. Still, if McCarthy succeeds in creating enough frustration among his Republican colleagues, some of them may soon agree to a power-sharing arrangement with the Democrats – even one that permits McCarthy to serve as House Speaker for just one year.

Perhaps then – whether he is even aware of this or not – McCarthy’s dogged insistence that his colleagues cast ballot-after-ballot-after-ballot – may eventually lead to a power-sharing arrangement with House Democrats.

It would be a true arrangement of convenience – one that will make even one member of Congress very happy. But If that does happen, then McCarthy may actually have proven Einstein wrong – at least this one time.