Kevin McCarthy’s Flagrant Double Standard

The Republican House minority leader pretends to be a protector of the popular will, but his logic doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy
Alexander Drago / Reuters

Donald Trump lost the popular vote in 2016.

Hillary Clinton received 65,853,514 votes––millions more votes than her opponent. President Trump received just 62,984,828 votes. But Republicans didn’t care, correctly insisting that the popular vote, the tally of who more voters wanted, is irrelevant to the legitimate outcome. The Constitution awards the White House to the winner of the Electoral College, and rules are rules.

That’s why the GOP’s latest criticism of impeachment proceedings is so transparently disingenuous. Here’s GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday:

He ought to be ashamed of himself for at least three reasons. First, it’s flagrantly misleading to note the 63 million Americans who voted to put Trump in office without noting the 66 million who voted for his Democratic opponent (and never mind the absurdity of that map and all the areas without people that it colors red). Second, impeaching and removing Trump from office would not “reverse the results of the 2016 election.” It would not make Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton the president; it would make Mike Pence president.

Third and most important, the tweet shows McCarthy to be an inconsistent defender of the U.S. Constitution.

McCarthy asserts the legitimacy of a counter-majoritarian provision in the document when it results in a Republican taking the White House, but when a Republican president is at risk of being removed for his misdeeds, McCarthy suddenly portrays impeachment—a process that the same Founders ratified—as if it were illegitimate because the expressed will of the American people would be overturned.

McCarthy’s argument would be wrongheaded even if Trump had won the popular vote in 2016 and currently enjoyed high approval ratings. Members of Congress were elected by the people. Impeachment requires a majority in the House. Removal requires a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate. That is a high bar that must be cleared by people duly elected to represent the public will.

But McCarthy’s argument goes from wrongheaded to absurd when one notices that Trump did not win the popular vote and that more Americans disapprove of his performance than approve of it. Impeachment and removal are always constitutionally legitimate, and are, if anything, less objectionable in light of the 2016 vote tally that McCarthy absurdly invokes against removal.

Republicans want to keep a popular-vote loser in office by touting their party’s supposed regard for the will of the people. Their double standard can’t withstand scrutiny.