California may soon boast another Speaker of the House, as Republican Kevin McCarthy aims to take up the gavel given up less than five years ago by Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
But the two U.S. Representatives from the Golden State are barely on speaking terms: “There is no relationship,” a McCarthy aide told the Los Angeles Times this week. If anything, Pelosi has mocked McCarthy both in private and in public, largely choosing to ignore him.
Pelosi and McCarthy may hail from the same state, but their political backgrounds could not be more different. Pelosi is from ultra-liberal city of San Francisco, one of the major hubs of the American left for the past fifty years. McCarthy is from the conservative rural town of Bakersfield, in the heart of the conservative Central Valley. While Pelosi is a career politician, McCarthy is a small business owner who was only first elected to Congress in 2006.
The tale of their respective careers is also a tale of their two parties. McCarthy rose through the ranks quickly, his California roots giving his conservative politics a moderate twist that enabled his entry into an unstable leadership. Pelosi, by contrast, ran the most centralized Speaker’s office in recent memory and still holds an iron grip on power within the Democratic minority despite leading her party to calamitous defeats in two successive midterm elections.
McCarthy is viewed by some conservatives as too close to the Washington, D.C. establishment to be trusted with the conservative agenda favored by the Republican base. Pelosi has the opposite problem: she is so far left that she has trouble appealing to the moderate, so-called “middle-class” voters that used to be the heart of the Democratic coalition.
Regardless, the fault line of American politics may soon run straight through the middle of California.