FORWARD WITH ANDREW YANG
This week, history was made as Kevin McCarthy was ousted as Speaker of the House. He was voted out by a combination of 8 conservative Republicans and all Democrats at a count of 216 – 210. No Speaker has ever been removed before.
As usual, there is a Republican point-of-view, a Democratic point-of-view, and then the reality the rest of us live in. From the Republican point-of-view, this is a small clutch of hardliners using their leverage to oust a Speaker who was insufficiently ideological for doing such things as funding the government’s continued operations. From the Democratic point-of-view, this is casting out a political opponent and exposing the Republican Party as incapable of holding a true majority. For the rest of us – it’s wondering what it means and what happens next. Again, this has never happened before. Anyone who says they know what happens next is simply guessing. Here’s the math – there are 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats in the House (2 seats are presently vacant). A majority has to vote in a Speaker – so 217 votes. That means that any Republican candidate can only afford to lose 4 votes. It took Kevin McCarthy 15 ballots and four days to get elected and he was nearly unopposed. How will it go this time? It’s hard to imagine any Republican getting to near-unanimity in today’s Republican caucus. We could be in for many days of political spectacle. It’s possible that if no one can get to 217, Democrats extend a lifeline to a particular candidate to get him or her over the hump. That hasn’t been in the cards – and would obviously be a turnoff to some Republicans – but it might be the only resolution if the process drags on long enough. The new deadline is November 17th, when the government again runs out of money. We need a Speaker who can pass a spending resolution by then – bearing in mind that passing a spending resolution is what got Kevin McCarthy booted. Investors now are beginning to factor in political risk into their evaluations of America’s ability to meet its obligations. I’ve been asked what this means for most Americans. We don’t have a functioning legislature until further notice – the House of Representatives doesn’t have an organized majority. It means that American institutions continue to run aground in whole new ways that seem implausible before the fact and then obvious afterwards. For those hoping our leaders find common ground and bridge the divide, this is a powerful signal to the opposite, that political incentives are now more powerful than governing incentives. It also means a more uncertain business environment. There are many people celebrating Kevin McCarthy’s fall because they didn’t like Kevin McCarthy. I’m not a fan of his – but I remain a big fan of his country. His country deserves better leadership than this. I think Democrats made a mistake in siding with his ousters, even if it seems like a short-term political win by making Republicans look incoherent. Because it also makes America look – accurately - polarized and dysfunctional. Perhaps the House will elect a new leader and business will continue on as usual in a matter of days. It’s more likely though that those who toppled McCarthy have developed an appetite for power, even negative power. The real question is if a Speaker can be booted by 8 extremists and his political opponents, who will be safe in the same seat? If you can’t even take the basics for granted anymore, that’s a frightening place to be. To join Forward to provide a new pathway in our politics and change the incentives, click here. We are needed more than ever.
Co-Chair, Forward Party