The GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives mired in tumult and internal conflicts in 2023, has triggered a notable exodus of frustrated members, signaling a troubling time for American governance. The continuous chaos, marked by the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) as speaker and the far-right’s persistent disruptions, led by figures like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), has pushed several lawmakers to the brink, resulting in their decision to not seek reelection in 2024.
This wave of departures from Congress, equally spanning both sides of the aisle, signals a weariness and disillusionment with the current state of political discourse and functionality in the House. As reported by Siobhan Hughes in The Wall Street Journal, November 2023 saw the most lawmakers since at least 2011, from both the Democratic and Republican parties, announcing their departure from Congress. This phenomenon isn’t just about ending their current terms; some, like ten-term Rep. Brian Higgins (D-New York), are opting to leave even earlier, with Higgins planning to depart in February 2024.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a prominent GOP speaker nominee who faced rejection, and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado), who received death threats after voting against Jordan, exemplify the intense pressures and dangerous climate encircling the House. Buck’s announcement that he won’t be seeking reelection in 2024 is a testament to the toll this environment has taken on its members.
Democrats, too, are feeling the strain. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Michigan) expressed his disillusionment, citing the last few years as “among the most difficult and frustrating times” in his professional career. The chaos within the House, according to Kildee, heavily influenced his decision to not seek reelection.
This “bad patch,” as Higgins termed it, points to a deeper malaise within the U.S. political system, where bipartisan cooperation and productive legislative work are being stifled by incessant infighting and extremism. His bleak outlook – that this is just the beginning of a challenging period, not the end – raises concerns about the future of effective governance and the ability of Congress to address the pressing issues facing the nation.
For young, progressive audiences who value strong, functional governance, this exodus is a worrying indicator of the state of U.S. politics. It underscores the need for renewed efforts to foster a political environment where collaboration and constructive debate take precedence over partisan bickering and extreme ideological stances. As we witness these experienced lawmakers stepping away, it’s a stark reminder of the challenges facing our political institutions and the urgent need for systemic change to restore faith in our democratic processes.