At the event, as confirmed by multiple reporters, McCarthy was given an oversized gavel. “More importantly, I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel,” he responded to a cheering audience. “It will be hard not to hit her with it.” The cheering crowd, of course, is key here. This wasn’t McCarthy slipping up and saying something he’ll regret. It was McCarthy pandering to the Republican base, the logical next step after years of “lock her up” chants from Donald Trump’s rally crowds, and after McCarthy’s decision to embrace the Capitol insurrection wing of the Republican Party.

”A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a #January6th assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, tweeted in response

McCarthy wants to be all things to all Republicans, and right now that means a mix of casual misogyny, embrace of violence, and contempt for democratic norms. As of a couple months ago, when under pressure to do so, he would still throw in the occasional statement mildly critical of things like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene comparing public health guidelines to the Holocaust. But on the whole, McCarthy has obviously decided that it’s not really worth pandering to independent voters or trying to appear respectable to the media. He’s all in on the Trump Republican Party, trying to put a team of vandals on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and then pulling out of that committee when Pelosi rejected them. Greene’s Holocaust comparisons get a late, mild warning, while the Republicans who agreed to serve on the select committee, at Pelosi’s invitation, have their committee assignments threatened and get publicly branded as “Pelosi Republicans.” And McCarthy has increasingly embraced the Republican culture war against public health precautions like masking, prompting Pelosi to dub him a “moron.” (She did not, however, threaten to hit him with a gavel.)

For a while, McCarthy thought he could try to play both sides of the Republican Party, but by now he has chosen a side, and he’s with Donald Trump and Greene and Jim Jordan and Lauren Boebert. He’s with violence and misogyny. He’s with insurrection, or at least with covering up the one that already happened. Even when you get past Trump, this is the leadership of the Republican Party. It’s past time for the media to wake up to that.

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