For the first time in the nation’s history, the House of Representatives has voted to oust its speaker.

Kevin McCarthy’s loss is a victory for the forces of chaos within the Republican Party, which seems so disorganized that its members probably could not get together on a lunch order, let alone run the House of Representatives.

Dysfunction is their methodology, while the world watches. But Tuesday’s vote reflects a deeper triumph of short-term thinking over the long-term best interests of the nation.

Though our system of government recognizes and expects that elected officials in a country as large and diverse as ours will be motivated by different interests and partisan passions, it also requires that our representatives see beyond those interests to what James Madison called “the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

To do this requires looking beyond the immediate fight — something our contemporary leaders are apparently incapable of doing. Every faction that participated in Tuesday’s events can make an argument about how their behavior serves their short-term political interests.

Matt Gaetz, the chief arsonist

Matt Gaetz is the chief arsonist, and the Republicans who voted with him gain notoriety, social media clicks and added fundraising dollars. Gaetz’s approach is to elevate his own political fortunes, regardless of what institutional damage might be left in his wake.

He appears to have no political plan for the future; he cares only about winning the immediate political fight by punishing the House leadership for the apparently unpardonable sin of partnering with Democrats to keep the government from shutting down for another 45 days.

Kevin McCarthy, for his part, empowered Gaetz and company when he won the speakership by agreeing to their deal of permitting a single House member to bring a motion to vacate the chair. He was willing to make whatever promises served his personal ambition to become House speaker, even at the expense of the smooth functioning of the House.

Consistent with that ethic of short-term solutions, Speaker McCarthy would not even appeal to the Democrats in order to keep the House from walking off this cliff.

Utah congressmen express anger after Speaker McCarthy ousted

Democrats are complicit

House Democrats may feel that they are off the hook in this particular display of intra-party division, that they can simply sit back and watch the Republicans devour each other. After all, never interfere with your enemy while he is making a mistake. But this, too, is short-term thinking that risks long-term damage to the nation’s ability to govern.

Leadership requires more than succumbing to the temptation to partisan Schadenfreude. To get Republican chaos, Democrats had to make common cause with Gaetz and his band — precisely the group of MAGA Republicans they have argued are at the heart of the nation’s political dysfunction.

Democrats will argue that this is merely a marriage of short-term convenience to help teach the Republicans a lesson. But what lesson should the Republicans learn? That chaos wins you the media cycle? Or that supporting a compromise on a continuing resolution to fund the government (as McCarthy belatedly did) threatens your job?

The Democrats’ actions have made it more likely (not less) that the government shuts down during the holidays. They will probably end up with a speaker of the House even less willing to engage in principled compromise across party lines than was Kevin McCarthy. Perhaps worse: They have endorsed the precedent that the Republicans should make mischief the next time a divided Democratic Party controls the House.

Thus, while all the players in today’s sad political pageant can claim their short-term interests have been served, our larger, common interest of stable, forward-looking governance is lost in the fight.

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So what now?

Even in a nation of many interests, political passions and diverse perspectives, Madison hoped that representatives deliberating together would be able to discern the “true interests of the nation,” not sacrifice them to “temporary or partial considerations.” Madison expected, of course, that such “enlightened statesmen” would not always be at the helm.

But it is moments like Tuesday that the absence of such leaders — and our inability as voters to distinguish short-term partisan interests from long-term national needs — is most keenly felt.

For the past two House cycles, each party has secured a slim House majority. Currently, Republicans share that power with Democrats, who narrowly control the Senate and occupy the White House. But those conditions may not last through the next election because neither party has been able to establish the sorts of large and durable majorities that would allow them to fully institute their party platforms.

This means that the only path to solving the nation’s pressing problems will involve a willingness to reach across the aisle and find principled compromises on a range of issues. Whether elected officials do so or not probably hinges in large part on our willingness as voters to identify and reward those politicians who prize the permanent and aggregate interests of the nation above their partisan allegiances when the two conflict.

As Madison saw it, the “primary control” on the government is “a dependence upon the people.” In moments like this, and the upcoming elections, that claim is not mere rhetorical flourish. Americans must find the will to reward someone — literally anyone — who can look beyond the politics of the moment to the politics of the future.

Christopher F. Karpowitz and Jeremy C. Pope are professors of political science and senior scholars at the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU. Pope is also Faculty Fellow at the Wheatley Institute.