The Patterns of Politics from Students to Speakers
Media provided by Louise Giddings ’23
After a tumultuous four days and 14 unsuccessful ballots, the U.S. House of Representatives finally elected GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California as speaker in a historic 15th vote on Saturday, January 7th. This was the longest the House had remained without a speaker in more than 150 years. Despite the support that he repeatedly showed for President Trump, McCarthy still struggled to secure the vote of many adamant Trump-supporting house members.
Whether it is the House voting for their Speaker or the beliefs of Grace students aligning with that of their class representatives, trust and authenticity seem to be the most crucial components of the voting system.
“As a voter, you want a representative that is going to speak up for what you want,” said Ana V .‘25. “I won’t vote for a student representative who I don’t think will create the change I want to see.”
Though their political views differ, similarly to Ana, the Republican Trump supporters refused to vote for Mr. McCarthy 14 times because they didn’t trust that he would do what they wanted once elected.
Karis B. ‘23 believes that “authenticity and passion and dedication instills the voters’ trust in a candidate.”
Karis was a student representative in both the 10th and 11th grades before being elected student body leader last spring. She explained that, even though the topics she worked on reforming were different each year, her support and recognition for doing what her peers and students wanted stayed the same.
Even with Mr. Trump’s endorsement, many Republican House members still believe that Mr. McCarthy will not significantly alter the way Washington is governed because he is too strongly affiliated with a dysfunctional system. As a result of such turmoil, Rep. Andrew Biggs of Arizona wrote on Twitter during the elections, “The American people want us to turn a page. They do not want excuses or performance art, they want action and results.”
Karis explained that a large part of what she believed helped her get elected was “centering a value in [her] speeches.”
For instance, Karis repeatedly referenced the quality of student life and the student experience during her campaigns: “I tried to frame a more concrete understanding of initiatives and how I get things done.”
Similarly, Mikail O.‘25, the 10th-grade representative, emphasized the importance of student life within the school’s election process, as he said, “The students should be the voice of your campaign. They are what really create the change.”
Mikail believes that a candidate’s objective should be to instigate the change that the voters – in this case, students – want.
According to Karis, student demands vary regularly: “One minute there are issues with the building’s temperature, and the next it’s issues surrounding the dress code.”
Karis said her most significant challenge is “balancing the questions of ‘what do you, as students, want?’ and ‘what can I do that will benefit and support you best in the long run?’”
While the student body seems to take into consideration the appreciation that each candidate has for their peers and their respective demands, to the Republican dissenters, Mr. Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy meant nothing because they did not trust his ability to take action in regards to their requests. At Grace, matters differ.
Mikail agrees with Karis, saying, “I was lucky as a candidate because I had my foot in the door of a lot of different aspects of student life.”
Along with his participation in sports at Grace, Mikail takes many classes with a range of students in his grade. Through gaining their friendship and trust, he was able to secure their votes.
Like Mikail, Karis said, “There is […] a certain understanding among my peers of my dedication, which is probably seen a lot in the classroom.”
“The challenge of running,” Karis said, “is keeping who you are authentically and being able to align that with what the people want to hear.”
Unlike Karis, McCarthy initially failed to understand the hardliners’ demands for the speaker to have less power and the House members to have more. Similarly to McCarthy’s voters, the student voters’ have the desire to be heard and represented by a peer they can trust.
“Who people vote for is, at the end of the day, not in my hands,” said Karis, continuing, “all I can do is give them as much information as I can about who I am and what I want to do.”
Like Karis, Mikail believes that a candidate is most successful when they aren’t just getting to know the voters, but letting the voters get to know them.
Last year, when Mikail was not in the student council, he had the experience of looking at it from a student’s perspective, which he took into account when running for 10th-grade representative.
“Last year, I noticed issues from the outside, but this year I have an internal point of view,” Mikail realized.
He plans on running for 11th-grade representative next year and hopes to focus on expanding the funding for the student council’s initiatives and widening their jurisdiction and ability to make a change.
Karis believes that “as a representative, when something is difficult to make happen or you are trying to approach a challenge, you have an underlying purpose as to why you are doing it.”
The fact that Mr. McCarthy would concede to the demands of the House holdouts may be what signals to them that they cannot trust him to deliver on a long-term agenda. The pattern of his being willing to concede in order to win may be why they perceive the new Speaker as different from and less determined than them and, therefore, not trustworthy.
These two student candidates found success in their elections by taking advantage of the trust they had built with their peers and the authenticity that they proved through the action that followed their words. Mr. McCarthy’s failure stemmed from the House members who withheld from voting for him, doubting his reliability to follow through on his promises.
Karis advises future candidates to “never get lost in the desire to win and end up saying something that’s not true or that’s not you.”