Polarity in Election of McCarthy
On Jan. 7, House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, was elected as Speaker of the House. McCarthy’s election was historic, as it took 15 rounds to vote him in. The last time it took over 10 election rounds to vote for the Speaker of the House was in 1856, during the peak of the Antebellum Period before the Civil War. The polarity of today’s political climate can explain this similarity between 2023 and 1856.
McCarthy’s inability to win Speakership in one round was pathetic due to his having the majority advantage, as the House is made of 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats. To win the speakership, a candidate needs the majority vote which would be 218. Despite this pathetic failure to secure the speakership in one round, it was expected, as McCarthy’s peers have been disappointed with him ever since the 2022 midterms.
Ever since the presidency of Donald Trump, the political climate has been more split than it has been in years. The legitimate voices of the left are far left, and the voices of the right are far right. Those whose voices are deemed moderate are ignored or considered not strong enough to have a valid say in politics. Even though he was endorsed by Trump to be the Speaker of the House, McCarthy falls into the moderate category. As the Republican Representative of California, McCarthy stated that his goal was to win back the Republican majority in the state. McCarthy failed to obtain this goal because, in the midterms of 2022, there was not a red wave-like Republicans were expecting. This failure to “red pill” California disappointed many of McCarthy’s Republican peers and turned him into a non-trustworthy and weak figure in their view. Fellow Republican congressmen such as Andy Biggs and Matt Gaetz claimed that McCarthy is not conservative enough to be a strong negotiator as the speaker.
Other than failing on his promise to turn California red, McCarthy was also challenged with securing the speakership because of the two upcoming bills the House GOP is dreading to vote for. The two bills are on raising the national debt ceiling and funding the federal government. The Republicans have been emphasizing their goal to control and reduce the national debt, so it would be in the party’s best interest if the two upcoming bills were voted down. The Republicans are afraid McCarthy will bend the knee to Democratic representatives through weak negotiation. If the bills pass, Republican voters will have less confidence in the party, affecting all Republican senators’ reputations to effectively represent their supporters.
The polarity of today’s political climate demonstrated through McCarthy’s election mirrors the speakership election of Nathaniel Banks in 1856. Banks was a Republican representative of Massachusetts and was advocating to stop the expansion of slavery into new U.S. territories such as Kansas. This election was five years before the Civil War, and the debate over the legalization of slavery was at its most contentious point. Banks’ election took 133 rounds, nearly two months long. Banks’ 133 rounds are significantly substantial compared to McCarthy’s 15 rounds over five days, but the similar polarity between Republicans and Democrats is too obvious to ignore.
If voices like McCarthy’s are considered moderate and unappeasable for both Republicans and Democrats, it leaves the question: Is the U.S. on the brink of the next Civil War?