The madness over McCarthy could help the Democrats in 2024

By Meg Richards, Staff Writer, Opinion

After a week of humiliating deliberations, phone calls to “DT”, and a near-miss physical altercation on the House floor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been elected Speaker of the House—and on the second  anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurrection. 

The Republican Party’s charades that week were nothing less than indicative of the GOP’s growing failure to unite behind a singular candidate—something they did with much more ease in the past. Although the tumult of electing a Speaker has ended, the new Republican House majority might err on the side of both polarized and ineffectual. Should this be the case, this opens a door for the Democrats; they should waste no time jumping on the opportunity to emerge victorious as the new party of unity. 

The glimpse into an unprecedented House divide came as McCarthy bartered away Congressional power after Congressional power in exchange for the votes of Trump loyalists who dangled the political carrot in front of his eye through 14 excruciating failed votes. The humor behind the chaotic vote for Speaker lies not only in the situational irony that it fell on Jan. 6, but the insight it provides for the GOP’s bleak future—especially with the impending 2024 presidential election. 

For years the GOP gained political ground by constantly uniting behind one candidate. During the 2016 election, what cost Democrats the presidency was their inability to put their differences aside and support one candidate. 

In the 2020 election, the same factional politics that seeped into the Democratic party in 2016 began to resurface. The section of the electorate that ‘Felt the Bern’ for four years were reluctant to vote for President Biden. Many declared online that they would rather write in Sen. Bernie Sanders, vote third party, or not vote at all. Left-leaning voters became even less enthusiastic when Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, due to her history of being hard on crime and pushing incarceration for marijuana charges

Conservatives—for the most part—were able to set their personal politics aside and stand as a monolith for former President Donald Trump, though more successfully in 2016 than 2020. The party began to fracture with the ‘Never Trumpers’ and ‘Lincoln Project’ as they slowly broke off and endorsed Biden in the last election. At the time, they were still the minority in their party, and these outliers garnered the support of Democrats by sole virtue of their bravery to step away from the majority. However, this incongruous group of anti-Trumpers grew exponentially in the months following Trump’s challenge of his defeat and, thus, the democratic process of voting by inciting an insurrection. 

This noticeable shift occurred in the grueling months of  Congress’ investigation of Trump’s involvement in Jan. 6. In the 2022 midterms, Trump-endorsed candidates significantly underperformed compared to Republicans that condemned him and shied away from his endorsement. 

While former Rep. Liz Cheney and others were initially ostracized from the Republican party for their belligerent checks on Trump’s power, they now align much more with the party in the present day. Trump has become synonymous with a certain type of extremism that many Republicans no longer want to be affiliated with—namely after this midterm election cycle, where it became clear it will cost them elections.

In Nov. 2020, being a ‘Never Trump’ Republican meant not supporting an inflammatory individual who colossally mishandled a public health crisis and left the nation in the most polarized state it’s ever been. In Nov. 2022, separating oneself from Trump is to denounce the overthrowing of democracy—a far less partisan issue. 

The depleting group of ultra-conservative election deniers that still stand with the former president were the very ones that kept McCarthy from reaching enough votes to be elected Speaker of the House for 15 repetitive rounds of voting. Among these were Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and 18 more House Republicans. 

Watching failure after failure to elect a Speaker—as well as get anything done since no one was sworn in—is stark in contrast to the Republican party that once was. To think that just seven years ago, nearly every Republican, no matter their personal politics or exact alignment, endorsed and supported Trump as he sought the presidency is almost unbelievable 

The anticlimactic “Red Wave”—or lack thereof—gave us a potential glimpse into the underwhelming presence of the GOP in next year’s presidential election. Their ballooning inability to find common ground on ideological differences and fundamental principles of democracy causes alarming inefficiency, and by extension, poses obstacles to winning elections. If the Republicans follow this trend of infighting, it’ll mean a messy election season and a win for the Democrats in 2024. 

We are seeing a rift in the foundation of the GOP—a split between those still doubling down on Trump, election denial, and Jan. 6th; and those who want to close that chapter of their party’s past.

While C-Span hit the jackpot with sound bites and pictures the first week of January, this new era of GOP infighting, spearheaded by those like Gaetz and Boebert, is the tip of an iceberg. 

This realization of how the GOP is evolving, in tandem with the lessons learned from Biden’s too-close-for-comfort margin of winning in 2020, should serve as a lesson for Democrats in the upcoming election season. When the time comes and a candidate is picked to be our nomination for president, we need to be proactive. If Democrats vote the way the GOP has been for years, they have a chance to win the election, even if it means electing someone less than ideal, someone perhaps more moderate than we’d like.

Generation Z—which is overwhelmingly left leaning—makes up a significant portion of the electorate, and our presence grows everyday. The more we turnout, like we did in the 2022 midterms to stop the “Red Wave,” the more these Democratic politicians will listen to our demands in order to get themselves re-elected. 

Michelle Obama once said, “when they go low, we go high.” Well, I propose: when they infight, we unite. 

Let’s take some tips from the GOP on what not to do and secure another four years in the White House.