When US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted on Tuesday from his leadership post, he became the shortest serving speaker since 1875. A handful of far-right Republicans joined Democrats and stripped the California Republican of the speaker's gravel with a 216-to-210 vote, after McCarthy worked with Democrats to pass a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown.
The ouster appears sudden, but is not surprising. It is no secret that some far-right Republicans hold radical ideas and refuse to cooperate with the Democrats in any form. Moreover, McCarthy's post was fragile from the very beginning. Matt Gaetz, who was among the Republicans to force a successful vote to vacate the chair on the House floor, repeatedly voted against McCarthy's bid for speaker in January. McCarthy ultimately secured the gavel after 15 rounds of voting over four days. To win the job, McCarthy had to agree to rules that made it easier to challenge his leadership.
Democrats also viewed him as untrustworthy. He broke a May agreement on spending with President Joe Biden. Despite the fact that McCarthy worked with the Democrats to pause the US shutdown, he did not win the support of a single Democrat in Tuesday's vote. Democrats still believe that the presence of McCarthy, who in September ordered an impeachment inquiry into Biden, would hinder the political agenda of the Biden administration. They also believe that ousting McCarthy would trigger chaos within the Republicans and stymie the Republicans' moves against the Democrats. All in all, McCarthy had already become a "lame duck" speaker.
Zhang Tengjun, deputy director of the Department for American Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that the ouster of McCarthy shows that against the backdrop of intensified bipartisan struggles, loyalty to the party triumphs everything, from the two parties' ability to make compromises and reach consensuses in the interests of the American public.
"It does not matter if one is the House speaker or not; what matters is which party he or she belongs to. This shows the extent to which the Democratic Party and the Republican Party divide," Zhang noted, adding that the US politics is now entering an era of "a host of demons dancing in riotous revelry."
McCarthy's ouster has been covered extensively by the US media, adding to the frenzy. But actually, it is the very representation of the US' so-called democratic politics. What normal democratic politics means is that the functioning of politics will not be affected by the removal of any single politician. But obviously, the ousting of McCarthy has plunged the House into chaos. And McCarthy's fate reflects how cooperating with the other party impacts political fortunes.
Wei Zongyou, a professor from the Center for American Studies, Fudan University, told the Global Times that from a deeper perspective, democratic politics is not all about elections, but about mutual compromise and restraint.
"If the two parties cannot make compromises and exercise restraint, but turn different political opinions into an excuse to crusade against the other side or launch a life-and-death struggle, it may lead to a deadlock or even a civil war, and the only consequence is that the foundation of democratic politics will be destroyed," said Wei.
US democracy is facing a severe test as the 2024 presidential election looms. The Republicans have to tackle the current chaos and address this most recent leadership crisis. Without a powerful House speaker to bridge the divergences among the Republicans, it will affect the overall election strategy of the Republican Party and its advancement of its political agendas.
The Democrats, sitting in the House chamber to watch the farce from afar, could laugh at the Republicans and accuse them of not being able to govern the country and being the reason behind ongoing political gridlock. But they also need to be aware that if the Republicans refuse to cooperate in any issue, the Biden administration's political agenda may also suffer. A chaotic situation next year does not necessarily bode well for the Democratic Party, and the outcome of the 2024 election remains uncertain and unpredictable.
Photo: File photo taken on Sep 29, 2023 shows the US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Front) speaking to the media in Washington, DC, the United States © Xinhua.
Source: The Global Times.