Republican Kevin McCarthy wants to become speaker of the House of Representatives. But his fellow party members are causing him to fail over and over again. The reasons for this date back to before the Trump era. Americans are shaking their heads and asking themselves whether this party is still able to take on governmental responsibility.
Republicans are not coming across well at the moment. The midterm elections felt like a defeat, as Democrats held on to their majority in the Senate and, contrary to expectations, Republicans only managed to capture a thin majority in the House. It became clear that former President Donald Trump scared away many voters, and the party is not managing to escape his grasp.
And then there is the farce involving the repeated failure, over the course of several days, to elect the new Republican House speaker. By Thursday, the notorious opportunist Rep. Kevin McCarthy had still not managed to gather enough votes from his own party, despite a record 11 rounds of voting.*
The Republicans look like a divided party in which personal vanity is more important than governing. Regardless of how this process ends, one thing is clear: The new Republican House leader will be weak — a stark contrast to his predecessor, Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is considered one of the most influential speakers in the House’s history.
However, the disruption in the Republican Party is only partly rooted in the Trump era. One can in fact trace ideological division back to the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Toward the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, a stimulus and bank rescue package was pushed through Congress that enraged neoliberal Republicans and brought a significant number of Republican lawmakers belonging to the tea party movement into Congress in 2010.
John Boehner, the Republican minority leader back then, found it difficult to unite his party under Democratic President Barack Obama. Exasperated, he threw in the towel in 2015. Today, members of the Freedom Caucus, a group consisting of tea party and particularly conservative Republicans, are refusing to vote for McCarthy. It’s true that both parties always have a small minority of radicals in the House who cause trouble. But it is only in the Republican Party that they are currently running the show.
*Editor’s Note: As of Jan. 6, 2023, there have been 13 rounds of balloting, a number that may increase as time goes on.