The Far-Right is Now Powerful Enough to Oust Kevin McCarthy: This is a Problem

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Kevin McCarthy was voted out of speakership on October 3rd, 2023 (Image credit: The Independent).

This Tuesday, October 3rd, will be a day etched into future history textbooks and forever eulogized by far-right Republicans. It is the day Matt Gaetz and his cohorts successfully asserted their power over the republican party and ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Due to the low republican majority in the House, several extreme Republicans, such as the members of the Freedom Caucus, were able to levy hefty demands onto McCarthy with their vote for him to stay in office as leverage. The stubbornness of Democrats meant that McCarthy was forced to appease ultraconservatives as to maintain his Speaker role, promising, among other agendas, a “Motion to Vacate”, handling of the budget processand an investigation into President Joe Biden. Ultraconservatives, enough in number to change the vote from a yes to a no, have banded together to exercise their “Motion to vacate” powers and have now booted Kevin McCarthy. When the far-right few have the power to choose who the speaker of the house is, two issues emerge. What concessions will they force from future hopeful incumbents, and more importantly, how dangerous is an over reliance on extremists? 

The power of extreme right-wingers has two sources. The first is the Republicans’ slim margin of victory. There are only seven more Republicans in the House than Democrats. This means that to pass any bill, (assuming all democrats voted against it), there could only be a maximum of three dissenters from the party. When moderate Republicans run for house speaker, they’re forced to appease the far-right to come to power. This gives reactionaries the power to negotiate deals that align with radical right ideology. Minority leader Jeffries explained before the vote that (he believed) McCarthy had brought (his unseating) on himself by using his short tenure as Speaker to cater to extremists in his party

The second is the unwillingness of Republicans to negotiate with Democrats. Kevin McCarthy had notoriously chosen to negotiate with Republicans, not Democrats. This is because of party polarization. The right and the left have slowly become more radicalized. If McCarthy attempts to negotiate with Democrats and gives in to their demands, many moderate and radical Republicans will vote against him. This forces him to negotiate almost exclusively with extremists, leading to increased far-right power. 

This situation poses a great threat to American democracy. If a few hardliners can dictate who becomes the speaker of the house, they are able to force far-right policy concessions from candidates running for speaker. Power is safe in the Overton window. It is never safe in the hands of those who are radicalized. Historically, radicalism, especially radical fervor to return to the good old days, has increased discrimination and authoritarianism – ideologies that dominated the past. The Republican Party should do all that it can to stop its radical elements from consolidating power and becoming mainstream. 

To do this, the Republican Party should negotiate with moderate Democrats. Moderate democrats would be more willing to vote for republicans who give slight concessions to them, knowing that no other candidate would be willing to do so. They would also avoid the problem of scaring Republicans away, as moderate Democrats would be much less likely to require many different concessions that go against republican ideals. The Republican Party should do this on a person-by-person basis, asking each Democrat the concessions they require for their vote and picking the least progressive ones. 

The GOP now faces an immense challenge; a dilemma so big they’ve suggested choosing Donald Trump as the next speaker. They need to choose a competent speaker who can last more than 269 days. Republicans have a difficult choice to make: they can choose to ignorantly ignore and berate Democrats for the unseating of Kevin McCarthy, or they can choose to work alongside them. The two parties are essentially two wings on a plane. If they don’t work together, this plane we call America will crash. 

Written by Pacey Qi

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