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Kevin McCarthy’s downfall may lead to a new center for America

Kevin McCarthy’s downfall may lead to a new center for America
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Anderson edited "Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework" (Springer, 2014), has taught at five universities and ran for the Democratic nomination for a Maryland congressional seat in 2016.

It is either ironic, a harbinger of good things to come, hard to read or some combination that the crisis on Capitol Hill revolving around the ousting of Speaker McCarthy has generated considerable discussion about the need to find a new center for the politics of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A range of pundits and members have recommended that moderates in the Republican caucus or both the Republican and Democratic caucuses take actions that would elect a moderate Speaker of the House. Moreover, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY) has recommended that a handful of moderate Republicans work with Democrats to elect a moderate Republican Speaker who would nevertheless forge a bipartisan relationship with the Democratic caucus to ensure that a set of rules be changed so that they give the Democrats more leverage in House Committees and on the Floor of the House.

What is ironic and possibly a harbinger of good is that the ousting of Speaker McCarthy was the idea of arch conservative Florida Representative Matt Gaetz. Joined by seven other arch conservatives, Gaetz led the way for McCarthy to be ejected from his seat as Speaker, the first Speaker in U.S. history to leave his seat due to a vote to vacate. Thus it would be ironic if moderation emerged from this very right wing source.

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Arch conservative Trump close ally Ohio Representative Jim Jordan is currently nominated by the Republican caucus to be Speaker. If he wins, and the odds are not really in his favor, moderation and bipartisanship will have to wait for another opportunity to seize the day.

Regardless of the outcome, the very fact that there are different calls for moderation and bipartisanship is illuminating and even a source for hope. Those who claim that all Democrats are extremely liberal or socialists cannot push this line of thinking today. Those who say that the Problem Solvers Caucus founded by No Labels is more talk than action must recognize that the Problem Solvers keep getting up from the mat after they seem to have been knocked down.

Those who say that the Senator Manchins and Senator Sinemas of the world who have been barking up the wrong tree should take a good look at the various forces in Washington that suggest that we do not have a civil war between extremists liberals and extremist conservatives. Instead, we have two parties with rival factions and enough members who are disgusted with the extremists to at least make moderation and bipartisanship a genuine possibility.

Perhaps the next step in this saga of our national politics is for the people of the United States to get into the arena, especially via their votes in the upcoming primary season. About 40% of our citizens, according to Gallup, do not identify with either major party -- they are independents. We also get between 20 percent and 40 percent turnout in our primaries. The base turns out the most voters, and they are also least likely to be centrists or moderates.

These voters, independents and those who typically sit out primaries and even general elections, can also take seriously independent candidates for office who could provide a distinct third force on Capitol Hill. This would advance the republic to a very different place, one where not bipartisanship but tri-partisanship would rule. For if the Senate had 5-6 independents and the House had 10-15, then it would be necessary for both parties to work with the independents.

It certainly seems possible that if some upstanding non-extremists are the nominees for president from the two major parties, like Nikki Haley, former Republican Governor of South Carolina and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and -- if President Biden determines it is time to pass the baton -- Gavin Newsom, Democratic Governor of California and former Mayor of San Francisco, then America could be in a position to craft a new center for its politics whoever wins the election. This new center might wax and wane every four to six years and not itself be a definite place on the ideological spectrum.

Open primaries, ranked choice voting, and nonpartisan redistricting will be needed to move this process at a warp factor speed, but we should not underestimate the power voters have right now at the voting booth and at their mail boxes. Rep. Gaetz was successful in getting Kevin McCarthy removed from his seat as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he may have put enough things into place to reset our national politics in a promising direction.

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