Intra-party struggle triggered by the 'McCarthy farce' makes US' two-party system unsustainable
Published: Jan 18, 2023 10:23 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

With White House officials Tuesday calling on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to "come clean" about secretive deals he made with hard-line House members that helped him eventually land the job, experts believe that the influence of a fundamental split within US political parties have begun to emerge, and that the polarization of US politics will make it difficult to sustain the two-party system.

US Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy finally became Speaker of the House of Representatives on January 7 after a historic and embarrassing deadlock which took 15 rounds of voting that prevented the lower chamber from being fully functional for days after the new Congress convened.

Some media outlets revealed that McCarthy and the "Freedom Caucus," the most conservative, far-right caucus of the Republican Party, reached "secret agreements" behind closed doors during the four days of drawn-out voting. 

Addressing the details of these "secret agreements," White House spokesperson  Andrew Bates said in a statement released on Tuesday that "an unprecedented tax hike on the middle class and a national abortion ban are just a glimpse of the secret, backroom deals Speaker McCarthy made with extreme MAGA members to end this month's chaotic elections and claim the gavel." Bateman said "it is well past time for Speaker McCarthy and the ultra MAGA Republican House members to come out of the dark and tell the American people, in-full, what they decided in secret."

While McCarthy insisted he made no formal agreements in exchange for getting conservative holdouts to vote for him, conservative members have said they received certain promises from the new speaker, Politico reported.

For 100 years, the election of the speaker was decided after a single round of voting, but this time, it took 15 to produce a result, Lü Xiang, an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that this can be seen as a prelude to a fundamental split in the Republican Party in the long run. 

"It shows that the two-party system can no longer function properly in the American political environment," Lü said.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that McCarthy's election came as a result of compromise within the Republican Party, but the battle between the two opposing parties in the US remains bitter, now and for some time to come, and will be difficult to reconcile.

The main reason is that the Republican Party refuses to compromise on the current distribution of power in the US, Li noted. Such opposition has worsened the existing political environment in the US, greatly reduced the quality of American politics, and made social problems more serious and difficult to alleviate.

According to NBC News, McCarthy offered to lower the threshold to force a vote on ousting the House Speaker down to just one member. In addition, McCarthy also promised to put more right-wing hard-liners on key House committees and vote on a series of conservative bills.

"The few agreements we know about would fundamentally reshape our economy in a devastating way for working families and criminalize women for making their own healthcare decisions," Bates said. 

In the future, US politics may lean toward a more European style with multiple parties contesting elections, Lü said. It is hard to sustain a functioning two-party system just by lumping people with totally different political views together.

McCarthy is expected make moves on a number of China-related issues, as he wants to cast more shadows and disrupt the Biden administration, experts pointed out. McCarthy represents a more extreme group of lawmakers with no political experience and no boundaries, Lü said. Therefore, people will see the whole domestic atmosphere in the US will be clouded by China-related issues.

It is predictable that McCarthy's position will be precarious, and it will be difficult for him to do his job. It is more likely that McCarthy will do something drastic to secure his position, such as compromising on domestic issues or shifting attention to China, Yuan Zheng, deputy director and a senior fellow of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.