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Photo from Architect of the Capitol. Credit: Becky Lee

This is the first column of Common Sense, a recurring dialogue between two veteran Daily Pennsylvanian columnists, Vinay and Lexi.

Lexi Boccuzzi: Vinay, who needs reality TV when we have C-SPAN? Between the zoomed-in cameras, members almost coming to blows on the floor and last minute phone calls from Grand Ol’ Party “dad” (otherwise known as former President Trump), the McCarthy Speaker [of the House] vote saga was better than anything I’ve ever seen on Bravo.

Vinay Khosla: Well, Lexi, I’ve seen some pretty heated episodes of Real Housewives, but I agree; it was quite the show on Capitol Hill for a couple days. Now that things have died down finally, what are your thoughts on our good old friends in the Freedom Caucus?

Lexi: There is no doubt that the Republican party has been divided for years now, and I think in many ways the same can be said for the Democrats. It’s no surprise that when given the opportunity to challenge party elites, as most populists promise, people like Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) did just that.

What becomes complicated about the particular brand of political theater that they participated in is whether their intentions were actually to fight for greater transparency and more government accountability for their constituents, or simply to increase their followers on Twitter. 

Vinay: Both can be true. There’s no doubt that the ploys we saw (and didn’t) were largely self serving for a number of these representatives, especially the relatively late joiners like Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) who were maybe looking to increase their national visibility coming into their second terms. 

But honestly, aside from the demands for committee chairmanships, some of the points these dissenters were making weren’t crazy. I mean, adequate time to read legislation, single-subject bills … this isn’t far-out-there stuff. 

Lexi: My main issue with the way they conducted themselves during the negotiations was that many of them, excluding Matt Rosendale’s (R-Mont.) floor speech, failed to articulate to their constituents the reasons for holding up the vote. The most vital role of a representative is to represent their constituents and their interests. Quite frankly, changes to the House rules package are above the civic priorities of the average American, making the caucus members’ actions look even more performative and disrespectful to the functioning of the House. 

Vinay: I see your point that some of the political minutiae of the moment was lost on Americans, but don’t you think it’s the responsibility of these representatives to effectively communicate about what they’re doing on the Hill?

Lexi: Without question, hence my caveat for Rep. Rosendale. I just believe that the “hills” that you are dying on (no pun intended) as a representative need to be ones that you can justify to the public. I think a failure to do so creates constituencies who do not respect the actions their members are taking, and also dampens the legitimacy of proposals. 

Not to mention that I would have greater sympathy for an argument that their actions were not performative if Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) had not obviously taken the 14th vote as an opportunity to rub salt in Kevin McCarthy’s wounds for the sake of publicity by voting present, despite getting everything he had claimed he wanted in negotiations. I believe that a lot of Republican voters will take notice of this as well and it definitely will affect the way some of these people are perceived in the next election cycle. 

It is interesting that you are recognizing the merits of these proposals, though. I feel like many members of the Left claim they are in favor of more egalitarian, transparent and democratic proceedings yet none of them expressed any sort of support for any of these changes. 

Vinay: To your last point, I think most Democrats I talked to were sort of reveling in the disunity of the GOP and derided the Freedom Caucus members as off their rockers in a sense. But really, that’s more a reflection of the Democratic tendency to close ranks when Republicans appear disorganized and less about the questions being raised by the dissenters. Some of these proposals, objectively, aimed to clear the air around an otherwise very hazy process. Not sure why more (or any) Democrats weren’t on board with that.

Lexi: Oddly I think there are two ways of looking at the impact of polarization on creating this scenario. The first is the most common, that with more heightened polarization increasingly ‘radical’ candidates will get elected to office, therefore creating a problem for more ‘moderate’ party leadership. The other is the opposite, that people are simply surprised by party disunity because we are so accustomed to a lack of diversity of thought within partisan politics. 

Vinay: And I definitely think we saw the latter on the Left this time around with Hakeem Jeffries garnering all 212 Democratic votes 14 out of 15 times, and my home state's representative, David Trone (D-Md.), racing back from same-day surgery to support Jeffries on Jan. 6th. Go Maryland!

Lexi: I completely agree, and I think the very aggressively antagonistic and partisan substance of Rep. Jeffries’s speech before handing the gavel to McCarthy is indicative of that as well. 

Despite my regular frustrations with various members of the GOP and my views as a traditionalist, you could make the argument that this sort of breaking away from party boss politics, where elites have complete command over freshman representatives is good for lowercase-‘d’ democracy. The growth of social media and the presence of more anti-elite politicians on both sides of the aisle has granted younger members more power to challenge institutional authority, which could certainly be perceived as a win for ‘the people’s House.'

Vinay: Frankly, under Nancy Pelosi, Democrats have almost always fallen in line with party leadership. In fact, it was a point of pride, and we saw that in Jeffries’s speech after the 15th vote. Although I’m not sure I would go so far as to say it was aggressively antagonistic, I will admit I found Jeffries’s speech a bit derivative, and certainly hypocritical at times.  

I almost wish some younger Dems or our supposedly ultra-progressive 'squad' had taken a stand and just ended the whole debacle. Why not just vote for McCarthy and get on with your job? They always knew it was going to be McCarthy, so we can’t ignore Democrats' complicity in all of this either. 

Lexi: For sure; and I think in the same way that echo chambers affected the perception of the chaotic vote (see the many Twitter memes), they also affected the behavior of the representatives on the floor. We all need to take a hard look at the way we fail to give credit where credit is due, and also our representatives’ lack of willingness to break ranks in order to do their job and begin legislating. 

Vinay: It’s funny you mention it, because now I’m thinking about gas stoves. Could we have picked a more ridiculous topic to wage the culture war over?

Lexi: I’m not sure we could … maybe the merits of Diet Coke and potato chips as a presidential diet? On the subject, on both sides we often credit right-wing dissent to MAGA or Trump’s outsized influence. But, in this instance we saw how little command Trump actually had, with his endorsement of McCarthy’s speakership failing to whip votes. 

Vinay: Alas, I still doubt we have seen the end of Trump. After all, who was it that Marjorie Taylor Greene phoned when Gaetz supposedly still needed a little extra persuading? But coupled with a disastrous election cycle for the GOP, I think we can safely say he’s not the kingmaker he once was.

Lexi: That is absolutely true. I’d also like to give credit where credit is due to McCarthy on his graceful, inspirational, and honest acceptance speech. Fun fact: I actually stood in the spot that he mentioned where Lincoln’s seat in the old House chambers was last week!

Vinay: Inspirational or contrived? Granted, he must have come close to the record for number of times someone could be rejected and come back for more, beating out a lot of desperate exes.

Lexi: Oh, definitely; I am curious to see how that will play out in his leadership, though. Speakers aren’t presidents — they don’t have to be ideological visionaries, they have to make compromises and get bills passed. As McCarthy’s expert PR team pointed out in their spin, maybe his willingness to “never give up” makes him the perfect man for the job?

Vinay: First of all, that PR team deserves a bonus. A big one. But to your question about McCarthy, I think only time will tell. As much as I’m not a Nancy Pelosi fan when it comes to policy, she always had the votes. I’m not sure McCarthy will be able to say the same. 

Lexi: That’s true, and as a Republican and an American, I’d like to see some policy making this session. But maybe breaking ranks has value? So long as it’s done in a substantive way. 

VINAY KHOSLA is a College sophomore studying history and political science from Baltimore, Md. His email is

LEXI BOCCUZZI is a College junior studying philosophy, politics, and economics from Stamford, Ct. Her email is