Tuesday, January 3, 2023, was supposed to be a moment of celebration. It was the day that members of Congress brought their families and children to Washington D.C. to witness them getting sworn into the 118th Congress. It was the day meant to showcase the new slate of elected officials who would represent their constituents in the most powerful legislative body in the United States.
Instead, twelve ballots and four days later, no one in the House of Representatives has been sworn in. Most families that had hours in the House chambers to see loved ones take their oaths finally gave up. Congressmembers-elect spent their first week sitting on the House floor witnessing the dysfunction of the GOP. The Republican Party has failed to find enough votes to confirm a Speaker of the House. Kevin McCarthy went into the week thinking he had enough votes to be the next Speaker — so much so that he moved into the Speaker’s office the day before.
But a vote that started at noon on Tuesday has ended up heading into its fourth day and more chaos and desperation on McCarthy’s part. Republicans spent twelve rounds of votes so far — breaking a record that stood since 1833 — trying to elect a Speaker. And not only has Kevin McCarthy failed to garner a sufficient number to be the next Speaker of the House, but, at last count he has fewer votes than on the first ballot. He even ended up losing votes to Representative Jim Jordan. In other words, after four days, the GOP House has weakened itself and any Speaker who is finally elected. Kevin, how humiliating.
Make no mistake: what we have seen this weekexposed to the American people the true colors of the Republican Party. Hearing people like Rep. Elise Stefanik and Rep. Jim Jordan made clear that Republicans aren’t focused on solving issues most immediate to the American people — things like lowering inflation or fixing healthcare. Rather, they revealed that chief among their priorities was “oversight investigations,” which is code for investigating those in the Biden administration and family. They made clear that Democrats must be held accountable — even though there is nothing for which to be held accountable.
Even more troubling than the fact that Republicans proved themselves as a party with no tangible policy plan is, no matter who the Republican Party elects as Speaker of the House, they are already viewed as a failure. They are going to assume office — whenever that may be — and be perceived as a party that was incapable of doing what should be the simplest task: finding a leader. Because of their incompetence, regardless of what Republicans seek to do as a party, they have lost credibility. They have lost legitimacy. They will only be seen as a deeply divided party.
Against this backdrop, it would be wise for Republicans to use this moment of humiliation and embarrassment as a wake-up call, as a learning opportunity. To start, it would be helpful for Republicans to realize that a large part of the reason they find themselves without a Speaker is that the majority of young voters rejected everything they stood for. Young voters said loudly and clearly in the last election, through the ballot box, that they will not tolerate a party that actively seeks to strip away fundamental rights from our lives. They will not accept a party that sits idly by as our lives become more difficult. Ultimately, our energy and enthusiasm are exactly what prevented Republicans from seeing a red wave and, as a result, what is now keeping them from having enough votes for a Speaker.
Beyond simply understanding that young voters repudiated Republicans in 2022, now is the perfect time for Republicans to realize that they must change how they operate to have any chance of winning in upcoming election cycles. For instance, rather than coalescing around Trump and denying election results, return to acknowledging facts and truth. Start listening to constituents. Start understanding the challenges that face the American people. And, most importantly, start working to address their problems with real policy action.
So far, however, there aren’t any indications that Republicans are doing so. Just last weekend, the first-ever Gen Z member of Congress, Maxwell Frost, appeared on ABC and talked about the continued challenges of finding an apartment. Frost said that it was getting to the point that he may have to resort to “couch surfing.” What followed that interview was a Tweet by the RNC Research team effectively dunking on Maxwell Frost for having to couch surf as a young member of Congress. Nothing more captures Republicans’ complete unwillingness and ineptitude to understand the magnitude of problems that face young people.
After so many failures this week, it is past time for Republicans to realize that what they are doing simply isn’t working. They are losing support among the groups that they need most. They are alienating large swaths of the electorate. And, most alarmingly, their lack of willingness to change is having profound consequences. With each passing day that there is no Speaker, there are no Committee assignments. There are no bills that can be introduced or passed in the House. Put simply, the livelihoods of the American people fall squarely on Republicans getting their act together.
For Republicans, now is the perfect chance to redeem themselves. But, as always, the question is, do enough of them have the spine and courage to do so? Only time will tell. And Gen Z — and the rest of America — is watching closely.