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The M.T.G.-McCarthy Referendum

Marjorie Taylor-Greene
In supporting McCarthy’s Speakership bid, M.T.G. is testing a longstanding cardinal rule of MAGA politics. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
December 28, 2022

For the sprawling, decentralized, increasingly inchoate MAGA political universe, it’s near impossible to keep one’s mind off of the upcoming House Speaker elections, next Tuesday, wherein Kevin McCarthy’s run for the gavel has been stymied by five intransigent, far-right Republican so-called “saboteurs” nicknamed the Never Kevins, whose firm opposition alone prevents McCarthy from the consummation of a career-long dream: nabbing the 218 votes required to rule the roost. McCarthy’s political knot is even more complex, of course. There’s a second block of Republicans within the Freedom Caucus whose support of McCarthy is conditioned on the restoration of the Motion to Vacate rule, effectively giving them the ability to detonate his collar if he crosses them. Matt Gaetz, their most voluble spokesman, has implied that they would be cool with Steve Scalise who is similar to McCarthy in every fashion besides his DNA. So, it’s personal. 

McCarthy, of course, is nothing if not willing to compromise. He has attempted to secure the rabble-rousing, anti-establishment MAGA vote by gaining the support of far-right allies like Jim Jordan, Jim Banks, and even Marjorie Taylor Greene. Greene’s presence, in particular, on Team “Kevin Only”—that is, in fact, their new name—was supposed to signal McCarthy’s amenability to giving MAGA world a seat at the policy-making table. In exchange for this presumed accord, M.T.G., along with dozens of other far-right media celebrities, have been publicly making the case that McCarthy would be a reliable ally on their key issues: border control, anti-woke legislation, repealing Covid vaccine mandates, and so forth. But in doing so, Greene is testing a longstanding cardinal rule of MAGA politics: the agenda must always take a back seat to all attempts to stick it to the establishment.