Three things to think about this January 5th
2023 didn't even wait a week to remind the world of the urgency of solving The Primary Problem. Right out the gate, we are approaching the second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection in the U.S. Capitol, a day that left the world watching our government teetering on edge. And the effects of the Primary Problem — which doubtless helped lead to that day, one of the darkest in American history — played out again in real-time as the U.S. House of Representatives failed to achieve a majority vote for speaker for the first time in a century.
As long as the underlying conditions of the Primary Problem remain — heavily gerrymandered and self-sorted districts and harmful, status-quo election models — the evidence for it will continue to be liable to appear.
With all that in mind, here are three things to think about this week:
It seems that it wasn’t a matter of “if” for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, but “when” — and “when” may not be when you think. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to achieve a majority vote for speaker, the first time since the Civil War that the contest had required multiple ballots. Yet, McCarthy just didn’t fall short on January 3, 2023, he fell short over the course of years: each time a state government gerrymandered its districts to enable the majority party and isolate the minority party, and each time the political system failed to adjust to such a trend.
The consequence of this has numerous implications: foremost, it’s already put in question the ability of our elected representatives to be counted on to fulfill the body’s fundamental responsibilities. Thus, Americans’ confidence in our Congress and institutions is almost certainly corroding further, putting into question whether our elected officials will be willing — or even able — to address Americans’ highest-priority problems over the next two years. The world is continuing to take notice — see, for instance, this observation from Yahoo! News’s chief national correspondent Jon Ward on Wednesday.
The two-year mark of the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, reminds all Americans that our form of government cannot be taken for granted. In the wake of the riot, it became apparent to lawmakers that election reforms were needed to prevent a repeat of the events that led to this day. A bipartisan group in Congress achieved a major one: drafting and subsequently passing the Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA) at the end of 2022.
The ECRA is a crucial victory for ensuring that presidential elections are certified consistent with how Americans’ cast their votes in each state and jurisdiction. It clarifies a 19th-century law (the original Electoral Count Act) that set rules for the submission and counting of electoral votes — the ambiguity of which led to wild theories about various officials’ roles, including that of the vice president, in the process, which bad actors exploited in the lead-up to 1/6.
The passing of the ECRA demonstrates that democracy reforms in Congress are best-achieved on a bipartisan basis. We commend our partners for their tireless efforts to help get the ECRA passed, including Campaign Legal Center, IssueOne, Protect Democracy, Humanity Forward, and Kevin Kosar of the American Enterprise Institute, who played critical roles in policy design and advocacy. To read more about other bipartisan actions taken in the 117th Congress, read our blog post, The Future of Federal Election Reform: Surprise! It's Bipartisan.
Lastly, we want to thank everyone who participated in our end-of-year survey! The feedback we have received so far has been hugely helpful. We recognize, however, that the end of the year can be a busy time, so we wanted to extend another opportunity to our readers to provide your feedback before closing out the window for submissions. The survey will close on Sunday, January 8th. Once the survey has closed, we will thoughtfully evaluate all responses so that we can cater best to your requests in 2023.
Our team at Unite America wishes you all a Happy New Year — we hope you have a healthy and happy start to 2023!