The first speech given by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to the newly-seated 118th Congress was a proud moment in history. In life, our elders often play important roles in our development and the fulfillment of our purpose. We often look to those elders for wisdom, knowledge, and direction when elevating to the next levels of life. For Jeffries, those elders include but are not limited to Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Jim Clyburn, who played critical roles in his progression to the next level as house minority leader.
Early in his speech, when acknowledging them, he said, “Thank you, Madam Speaker for all that you have done. It’s an honor to stand on your broad shoulders as well as the shoulders of the great Steny Hoyer and the great Jim Clyburn. Two consequential leaders in their own right.”
As the American people witness the continuation of great legacies, we should sincerely appreciate those who paved the way before us.
After 14 failed ballots to elect the next House speaker, the contrast between the Democratic and Republican caucuses cannot be any clearer. Unity and professionalism were seen on one side versus infighting and dysfunction on the other. The message is evident: the Democratic caucus is in good hands due to the smooth transition of leadership. It is also clear that Hakeem Jeffries is a true and inspiring leader. True leaders often work to build productive partnerships with individuals and groups representing diverse interests. Jeffries made it clear that the Democrats will look to find common ground with the Republicans on behalf of the American people.
Time will tell if any number of Republicans accept the offer when the nation’s best interests call for compromise. A true political leader understands that despite having two major political parties that differ in ideology, America is a melting pot where our diversity is a strength. The nation’s diversity should never be downplayed or ignored. We benefit when people representing all backgrounds and cultures are allowed to contribute their best. Jeffries’ speech spoke of how the late John Lewis reminded members of Congress that we might have come over on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.
He continued by listing what can be referred to as the ABCs of democracy.
Jeffries said, “House Democrats will always put American values over autocracy, benevolence over bigotry, the Constitution over the cult, democracy over demagogues, economic opportunity over extremism, freedom over fascism, governing over gas-lighting, hopefulness over hatred, inclusion over isolation, justice over judicial overreach, knowledge over kangaroo courts, liberty over limitation, maturity over Mar-a-Lago, normalcy over negativity, opportunity over obstruction, people over politics, quality of life over QAnon, reason over racism, substance over slander, triumph over tyranny, understanding over ugliness, voting rights over voter suppression, working families over the well-connected, xenial over xenophobia, ‘Yes we can’ over ‘You can do it’ and zealous representation over zero-sum confrontation.”
While the story of the 118th Congress is just beginning, it is a moment of transition, and Hakeem Jeffries has already given the Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters much to consider for 2024.
What happens in Congress during the next two years of Republican control should concern all Americans. Individuals who support and sympathize with the reasons and purpose behind the Jan. 6 insurrection are not limited to the foot soldiers who vandalized the Capitol building. Supporters and sympathizers also include members of Congress whose power and influence have gone unchecked by Kevin McCarthy. In an interview, Michael Fanone, a former Washington D.C. Metropolitan police officer present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, said then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told him that he couldn’t “control” the fringe members of the GOP regarding their opinions of the insurrection. As a result of concessions made by McCarthy in exchange for the speakership, members who downplayed the reality of that day are now in line to have more representation on House committees, including the influential House Rules Committee. They can offer more amendments on the House floor. They can now create an investigative committee to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government.
One of the most disturbing concessions allows any member to call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair. After days of begging, pleading, and bartering, the most rebellious group in the GOP controls the House speaker and the Republican Party. To avoid having a House speaker beholden to the most hardline Republicans, it would have taken only six moderate Republicans to switch their votes for Hakeem Jeffries.
The destruction to the Capitol building by rioters has since been repaired. Walls, doors, and windows can easily be fixed. But can the potential damage to Congress as an institution and functioning governing body be repaired as easily after the next two years? Or will two years become four years?
In this toxic environment, it was never realistic to believe six Republicans would turn and support Jeffries as House speaker. After two years of chaos, thereby making the political contrasts even more apparent, it is not that hard to believe enough Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters will find a way to make Hakeem Jeffries House Speaker after the 2024 elections.
David W. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book “God Bless Our Divided America.” He can be reached at www.davidwmarshallauthor.com.