Mathew Biadun | Contributing Writer
For more than two weeks now, ever since the historic ousting of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the House has been in chaos. Without a speaker, it is unable to vote on new bills until one is chosen - something that has proven immensely difficult due to divisions within the majority party: the Republicans. The pandemonium began when the extremist House Freedom Caucus betrayed their party's choice and expelled McCarthy. Now, a group of moderate Republicans blocks Jim Jordan from taking office and ending the chaos.
The Democrats have been quick to label it unproductive, destabilizing, and even obstructionist to the government. This has truth to it, as without a permanent speaker the House has become essentially inactive, thus stopping any lawmaking in the legislature. However, it seems quite hypocritical that the Democrats would be criticizing Republican lawmakers for this when just recently they were criticizing them for the opposite.
Ever since Donald Trump took office as President, and began converting the Republican Party into a vessel for his distinctive firebrand conservatism, the Democrats have been criticizing the Republican Party for bending backward to accommodate him. A Politico article from 2021 labeled the Republicans as ‘purging themselves’ as they became split regarding the former president. Just this June, an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times called Trump’s criticism of his Republican rivals ‘childish bullying.' There has been a common and widespread criticism that the Republicans are doing something wrong by purging opposing opinions, and not allowing anti-Trump forces to speak.
Yet now, the Democrats have been condemning the opposite. A CNN article decreed, ‘Republican Party infighting is driving America towards a government shut-down.’ The Left-wing media has now seemingly shifted to condemning the Republicans for their division, whereas they had previously criticized their disallowance of it.
On a certain level this, of course, is merely political realism. As the opposition party, the Democrats benefit from making their opponents seem incapable, oppressive, or generally bad. However, when one looks at it from a strictly moral perspective, there seems to be little wrong with the Republicans' actions. A series of lawmakers believe that their party’s choice for a vital government position was a mistake and that they are pursuing harmful policies. Therefore, instead of merely following their party’s herd, they break out to do what they believe is best. This is merely an application of democratic values, where all elected representatives should be able to reflect dissatisfaction. One can view the House Freedom Caucus or the moderate faction as causing dysfunction, or weakening party unity, but they cannot be accused of acting wrongly just because they aren’t supporting something or someone they don’t trust.
The real problem doesn’t lie with a variety of opinions, but rather, in the fact that the Congressional system is unable to properly deal with it. This is seen in other Western democracies, where such occurrences are commonplace but do not cause an equal cause of discontent.
In Canada, a vote of no-confidence in their democratic assembly can oust the Prime Minister, just like what happened to Speaker McCarthy. However, in their system, this leads to an immediate new election. This ensures that the change of public opinion that led to the vote of no-confidence is reflected by a newly elected chamber, which should reflect that changed public voice. In many European democracies meanwhile, where coalitions including many parties are common, a lack of support for the current legislative leader can either lead to new elections or merely for a ‘caretaker’ to take their position and handle all the formal responsibilities of the job while a new permanent lawmaker can be elected to the chair.
This is the issue with the American system. It fails to operate in times when the parties have slim majorities and are divided, despite the fact that this is becoming more and more common. The system might need to be changed in favor of allowing more dissent, instead of collapsing when it appears. Discontents should not channel their anger towards dissenting lawmakers, therefore, but rather towards the dysfunctional system that makes their discontent so destructive.
Collinson, Stephen. “The Republican Party Infighting Is Driving America toward a Government Shutdown | CNN Politics.” CNN, Cable News Network, 20 Sept. 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/09/20/politics/government-shutdown-house-republicans/index.html.
Goldberg, Jonah. “Opinion: Why Trump’s Childish Bullying of His Republican Opponents Works.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2023, www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2023-06-06/trump-desantis-haley-pence-gop-republican.
Sykes, Charles. “Opinion: Why Sane Republicans Are Purging Themselves.” POLITICO, www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/21/why-sane-republicans-are-self-deporting-th emselves-513445. Accessed 18 Oct. 2023.