WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The embattled Congressman Kevin McCarthy could benefit from learning about the identical experience faced by a house speaker from western Massachusetts long ago who struggled to retain power.
22News found this history lesson on display at the Westfield Athenaeum. The controversial Congressman from long ago, Frederick Gillett of Westfield, had to endure nine rounds of voting from his colleagues in his efforts to retain the gavel of house speaker more than a century ago.
Noted historian and Athenaeum executive director Guy McClain cites the strong similarities, “Frederick Gillett was a very interesting figure, one of the most important politicians to ever come out of Westfield, and western Massachusetts. He was a U.S. congressman for western Massachusetts for thirty-two years.”
Guy McLain suggests that Kevin McCarthy’s success or failure could rest on how well McCarthy can duplicate certain political qualities that the house speaker from Westfield used in good effect more than a century ago to retain his powerful place in Congress.
“One of the things that Frederick Gillett was very good at was coming up with ways of compromising, working together with other congressmen. And I think that’s what we have to be able to do now, to work together to compromise,” said McClain.
As history repeats itself, political figures in the present are able to borrow strategies used by their predecessors in real-time. The Westfield Athenaeum continues to be a vivid reminder of that connection between past and present.