Partisanship and Chaos
By Roger L. Thompson
As of Monday evening, October 16, there is still no Speaker for the U.S. House of Representatives. The House of Representatives has been in limbo since October 3 when former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of office by a vote of 216-210. The far-right contingent of 8, joined by the Democrat caucus made the historic vote of removing a speaker. The far-right contingent was led by Florida Representative Matt Gaetz. He was joined by Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Eli Crane of Arizona, Bob Good of Virginia, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, and Matt Rosendale of Montana.
The partisan move has resulted in chaos in the U.S. House of Representatives. The groundwork for such an event was laid when former Speaker McCarthy made the deal to allow only one member to call to vacate the chair.
Today, Congress is facing a new deadline on reaching a budget deal after passing a 45-day extension at the end of September. Yet, Congress is not working on a budget deal, they are still trying to find a leader who meets the partisan demands. When I use partisan, I am not referring to Republicans and Democrats, I am referring to the fractured party in power, the Republicans. The Democrats are not innocent by any standards. They are working for, and enjoying, the chaos hoping they can win the next general election because the Republicans cannot govern. They certainly sided with the eight far-right Republicans for this purpose when they voted to oust the Speaker. The Democrats and Republicans alike see this as a great time to raise money for their respective battles for the “heart of the nation”. In my opinion, the heart of nation has been forgotten as the fight is only for power and money.
When America witnessed the chaos in electing former Speaker McCarthy by taking fifteen rounds of voting from the majority party, some called it democracy in action. The deals that were made in the fifteen rounds of voting led to even more chaos nine months later.
Partisan politics and chaos are not new. This trend has increasingly grown more prevalent over the last ten years to the level of disfunction we see today. The seeds were sown twenty plus years ago and are now coming to harvest. And, by the way, this same trend is finding its way into Oklahoma politics as well. It is not at the level of Washington D.C., but it is very much alive at 23rd and Lincoln in Oklahoma City.
The national debt is now over $33 trillion. Russia has invaded Ukraine with plans to continue their advancement until the former Soviet Union is restored and now Israel was violently invaded by Hamas.
There are struggles in America that need to be addressed from the $33 trillion national debt to infrastructure in our smallest communities. There are needs in education, public safety, hospitals, and nursing home care just to name a few. Yet, Congress in their current state of chaos is ineffective.
When Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg in November of 1863, he ended his speech by using these words: “and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I have always admired the 16th President of the United States. During his speech at Gettysburg commemorating the bloodiest battle in the Civil War with more than 50,000 estimated casualties in the three-day battle, his short speech has long been remembered as one of his greatest speeches. I believe it is remembered and revered because it focused on the tragedy of a nation at war and on the people of the nation.
I still believe that a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is the only government that will last. It is the only government that will make a difference.
The question is often asked of graduate students at various universities; “How long do you think America will remain a superpower?” According to former O.U. President David Boren in his interview on Voices of Oklahoma, he said that in 2016, the average answer was ten years from graduate students.
America today needs leaders who will focus on the people and their needs and not on the next election. America needs leaders whose hearts are broken like President Lincoln when he witnessed a divided nation at war. I realize that while we are not in a physical war, the war for the soul of the nation is very much a reality.
Will America once again focus on a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” or will we continue down the path of partisanship and chaos?