The biggest political story of the week, bar none, is Kevin McCarthy’s humiliating bid to become speaker of the House. Over several days and numerous roll call votes, a far-right segment of House Republicans repeatedly denied the party’s leader in the previous House the votes necessary for any Republican, the chamber’s majority party, to lead the current Congress.

McCarthy’s very public struggle revealed one of the realities of a slim House majority. But the spectacle of the speaker fight aside, that narrow majority guarantees more legislative difficulty ahead.

Charles R. Hunt, an assistant professor of political science at Boise State University, explains not only why the GOP’s narrow majority is problematic, but also the additional ways such a razor-thin margin could get smaller and cause more problems over the next two years.

And, on the eve of the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, poet and classics scholar Rachel Hadas, from Rutgers University-Newark, writes about how an ancient Greek historian’s insights on civil unrest and democracy explain our present moment.

Also this week:

Lorna Grisby

Senior Politics & Society Editor

GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy wants to be speaker of the House. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Speaker of the House faces political peril from member deaths and resignations – especially with a narrow majority

Charles R. Hunt, Boise State University

The Congress that ended on Jan. 3, 2023, had 15 vacancies, a rate unmatched since the 1950s. If that rate continues, whoever leads the now-closely divided House will face trouble.

Rioters break windows and breach the Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Lev Radin/LightRocket via Getty Images

Ancient Greece had extreme polarization and civil strife too – how Thucydides can help us understand Jan. 6 and its aftermath

Rachel Hadas, Rutgers University - Newark

The insights of an ancient historian show that the causes of civil unrest are often the same over time and across societies.

Donald Trump supporters take over the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Not all insurrections are equal – for enslaved Americans, it was the only option

Deion Scott Hawkins, Emerson College

The events of Jan. 6, 2021, have been called an insurrection. The same word has often been used to describe the mostly forgotten rebellions against plantation owners by enslaved people.

Talking across the political aisle isn’t a cure-all - but it does help reduce hostility

Dominik Stecuła, Colorado State University; Matthew Levendusky, University of Pennsylvania

In-person conversations between Republicans and Democrats lasting just 15 minutes were found to lessen political animus, research shows.

Beyond Section 230: A pair of social media experts describes how to bring transparency and accountability to the industry

Robert Kozinets, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; Jon Pfeiffer, Pepperdine University

A key piece of federal law, Section 230, has been credited with fostering the internet and allowing misinformation and hate speech to flourish. Here’s how it could be reformed.

Just over 1 in 4 members of Congress in 2023 will be women – at this rate, it will take 118 years until there is gender parity

Laurel Elder, Hartwick College

For decades, there were growing numbers of Democratic and Republican women in Congress, but the number of Republican women has stalled.

A record-breaking number of women were elected governor in 2022 – here are 7 things to know about how that happened

William R. Wilkerson, State University of New York at Oneonta; Alana Jeydel, Fresno City College

Many factors contributed to a record number of women winning the governor’s office in 2022. Among them: It helps to have political experience.

Like this newsletter? You might be interested in our other weekly emails: