USD 79.9667 CNY 11.3044 EUR 85.9190 JPY 57.2008
Home » Electing Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker: A Drama-Filled Process

Electing Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker: A Drama-Filled Process

08 January 2023, Sunday
On Saturday morning, Kevin McCarthy of California was declared the victor in a four-day-long, 15-round-long process of voting to elect a speaker of the House. Below is a snapshot of the tense negotiations that took place on the chamber floor during the final day.

Doubtless Kevin McCarthy was pondering this week whether or not to become Speaker of the House: today, tomorrow night, next week, or never. Despite his best efforts courting the Republican Party, he was denied the privilege of the position he had sought for eight terms. The scene became a disordered, disgraceful, and all too familiar Shakespearean tragedy.

This week, Washington witnessed a drama unlike any seen in modern history. The election for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives had not stretched on for this many ballots since 1859, when the nation entered the Civil War. In an effort to make sense of the seemingly nonsensical situation, many observers turned to the timeless works of William Shakespeare. To paint the picture, fair was foul, and foul was fair. 

The tension was tangible as the day unfolded. By the end of Act One, a victor had yet to be declared. Republicans had fought each other to a standstill, with neither side gaining enough support to claim the Speakership.

That was just the beginning of the saga. As it continued to unfold, Washington's chattering class could only look back to Shakespeare for solace.

If one were to consider the situation of Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader, Robin Young, the co-host of NPR’s “Here and Now”, quipped that he should “check his tea for hemlock”. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post also made a comparison, noting that while Macbeth has to keep killing to satisfy his ambitions, McCarthy would have to keep conceding to satiate his own.

McCarthy favored a strategy to keep his caucus content in order to maintain control. He gave in to the demands of those most vocal within the assembly, regardless of if their requests were beneficial for either the party or the nation.

We watched as twenty legislators (later diminishing to six and then to just one) betrayed a stoic McCarthy on the House floor, thinking that a protracted, four-day vote was the only way to prevent the 57-year-old GOP leader from becoming a tyrant. Young and Marcus had chosen Macbeth to represent this, but it was hard to not recall Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, who presented the most well-known act of betrayal.

We questioned whether Steve Scalise, a trusted right-hand man, would create a cinematic "et tu, Brute?" moment by launching a bid for the speakership. When Jim Jordan of Ohio nominated Kevin McCarthy for speaker on the second ballot, Matt Gaetz quickly followed by nominating Jordan for the gavel, leading him to become a candidate for the position.

Members of Congress provided a spectacle during a week of political turmoil. The drama, reminiscent of one of Shakespeare's plays, unfolded as the Democrats and Republicans found themselves locked in a seemingly unending standoff.

Just as in Julius Caesar, there was an element of comic relief when Democrats brought out a popcorn machine and joked about being “menders of bad soles.” Despite the attempt at light-heartedness, however, the week lingered on, with no end in sight.

In many ways, the chaos of the week cannot be boiled down to any one of Shakespeare's plays. Nonetheless, there was something of the Bard in the events - the political tensions, the comedic distraction, and the days that seemed to stretch on endlessly.

The works of Shakespeare may be most instructive due to the presence of his tragic heroes. These figures, consumed with ambition, come to a grim ending as they plummet from their place of honour. Could Steven McCarthy be likened to King Lear, thrown aside after trusting in hollow promises? Or is he more similar to Hamlet, trying to seek revenge for the spectre of Donald Trump? It is also possible to compare McCarthy to Macbeth - an impressive court figure who could not see the malice behind people's pleasant faces.
UselessPoorFairGoodExcellent (No ratings yet)