BAKERSFIELD, Calif. ( Associated Press) — The next speaker of the US House may very well hail from California — not Nancy Pelosi’s piece of the Golden State, but another California, Donald Trump’s California.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is the son of the Central Valley, a farming and oil-pumping heartland that eagerly embraced the former president. A cluster of rural conservatism amidst California’s progressive politics, it is where residents are often ostracized, resentful, and left behind by their liberal neighbors in San Francisco to the north and Los Angeles to the south.
“We are the Forgotten Valley,” said retired insurance salesman Chuck Hall at a Republican Party dinner in Fresno last week.
This is where McCarthy began his political rise., from a young entrepreneur who set up a sandwich counter inside his uncle’s frozen yogurt shop, to one of the more powerful Republicans in state and national politics. His career took off during the Trump era, when McCarthy was an early supporter who understood the magnetic pull of populism fueled by Trump’s complaint in attracting working class people from Democrats and into the Republican fold.
But last week McCarthy’s future as the party’s leader in the House was in jeopardy. After the release of audio of him telling fellow Republicans after the rebellion at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 That Trump should resign.
As McCarthy relies on Trump to help Republicans win control of the House in November’s elections and the San Francisco Democrat seizes the speaker’s gavel from Pelosi, year-old comments dent their ties and the leadership of a party of McCarthy. raised new questions about the ability to do what still looks to Trump. ,
“I don’t have a job,” McCarthy told The Associated Press in an interview in his district last week, before The New York Times released audio of his 2021 comments.
“You know, I’ve done what I’m about to do. Now, what exactly is this legacy you’ve left behind?”
McCarthy’s career reflects the arc of Republican politics in many ways, coming of age in the prime optimism of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and then aligning with more harsh criticism of Trump’s status quo and Democratic policies.
But McCarthy’s handling of the Capitol attack, especially as a House committee on January 6, examined his conversations with Trump that day, as a defining chapter in his time in Congress and, perhaps, his future as a leader. Will emerge. McCarthy criticized Trump shortly after the siege, which he called “un-American” and said it was one of the saddest days of his career, before things started at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Went to meet Trump to patch. ,
“He still has bruises,” said Dave Noer, the long-serving mayor of nearby Taft, a historic oil-drilling town. “He will hold those wounds forever. So it was a very difficult lesson.”
The Trump years seem to have caused a hangover in the Central Valley, where residents said they are tired of the politics and fighting in Washington, and just want some respite from the stress in their daily lives.
inflation Gas prices have skyrocketed, about $6 a gallon, pushing the filling price into the triple digits for some. Crime remains a problem as the region grapples with population fluctuations and income inequality. coronavirus crisis The community hangs over it as it does elsewhere as the nation emerges from the pandemic.
Families watching the kids at a Little League game one weeknight had mixed views, with some believing McCarthy is part of the problem in Washington and others seeing him as a possible solution.
Garrylyn Dickerson, a respiratory therapist and mother of two who treats COVID-19 patients at a local hospital, said she wants Republicans and Democrats to work together.
“Honestly, I just want unity,” said the independent voter as she likes liberal-leaning Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., but also wants to see McCarthy reach out to Democrats more. “I don’t like to throw mud.”
Despite its conservative roots, the place that is often referred to as the Texas of the West is also changing. The once predominantly white population is fading away as Latinos and other demographic groups gain numbers. Bakersfield City Council is working on new district lines to accommodate the growing Punjabi population.
Christian Romo, president of the Kern County Democrats, said the birthplace of the agricultural labor movement and the home of civil rights labor leader Cesar Chavez is coming into its own. As second- and third-generation immigrants become eligible to vote, their party’s allegiance is highly demanded by Democrats and Republicans working to boost numbers and turnout.
“We are a red dot in a very blue county, but I keep telling people that the blue wave is breaking through that red wall,” he said.
To prepare for the November elections, McCarthy is reaching back to the tools of another former Republican speaker, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, who, after presenting voters in the 1994 election with a list of GOP priorities, “Contract with America”. had won control.
McCarthy entrusts his rank and file with assembling his list of priorities. To present to the public this summer. He acknowledged that his views were not being accepted in Congress by the other GOP leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has said the election will be a referendum on President Joe Biden and Democratic policies.
“This is where Mitch and I disagree,” McCarthy said. “I think we have to tell the American public what you’re going to do ahead of time, because when people go to vote, they vote for the agenda.”
Longtime Kern County Republican Party leader Cathy Abernathy, who first hired McCarthy as a youth congressional intern a generation ago, said she isn’t convinced Republicans will be able to control this decline. will be able, external analysis shows that the election is theirs to lose.
“I don’t take it lightly,” she said.
This isn’t the first time McCarthy has suddenly dropped out of a race in 2015, reaching for the speaker’s gavel. When it was clear he did not have the support of hard-right lawmakers.
Still it is not clear if he will be able to do much better this time. Several past Republican speakers, including Gingrich and Reps. John Boehner of Ohio and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, all followed out of town by turbulent rank-and-file lawmakers in their own party, have quit.
“Do I want to be a speaker? Yes. But I don’t have to be a speaker,” McCarthy said. “My life will be fine one way or another.”