WC has seen the aphorism, “He who would govern others must first learn to govern himself,” attributed to the Buddha, Confucius, Alexander the great and half a dozen others. For WC, it’s a self-evident precept. But to the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, it seems to be a foreign concept.
WC takes it as truism that the more zealous the members of an organization, the greater the possibility of schism, claims of heresy, and fracturing. The Scots, who strive endlessly for independence, are often distracted by their bitter fight with their mortal enemies, the Scots. Animal protection societies in Fairbanks had, at one point, splintered into as many as five different organizations. The suffragists of the early 20th Century U.S. fought far more among themselves than they every did for women’s right to vote.
The Teabagger caucus among the U.S. House Republicans has forced out their very conservative House Speaker John Boehner for – wait for it – being willing to compromise. Because compromise, in the minds of Teabaggers, is heresy. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution that they purport to revere is itself the product of dozens of compromises. Never mind the lessons of history on the failure to compromise. They are so focused on their personal goals and agendas that their sworn duty, governing the United States, is ignored.
So it was time for the U.S. House to elect a new Speaker. A consensus seemed to be emerging around Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but he withdrew his name suddenly and unexpectedly. The official explanation is that he could not muster the votes in the face of the intransigence of the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” a group of 40 or so extreme right wing nut jobs.1 There are rumors of other “real” reasons, including alleged extra-marital affairs. But nothing is substantiated. WC suspects a sudden attack of intelligence, as in, “Who in the world would want this job?”
McCarthy’s withdrawal put the Republican Party in the U.S. House into complete disarray. Seriously. While the Republicans dither, John Boehner, with a show of reluctance, has agreed to stay on. He is temporarily “unfired.” Given the urgent legislation pending before Congress, that may be a good thing. A lame duck John Boehner doesn’t have to court the Freedom Caucus to keep his job. He can – gasp! – compromise with the Democratic minority to pass things like an increased borrowing cap, a budget extension or even – gasp again! – a real budget.
In a British parliamentary system, he’d put together a Democrat-moderate Republican coalition. In the U.S. system, perhaps he can assemble a de-facto coalition to address the dozen or so critical issues facing the country, issues that the Republicans as a group seem to be unable to address: our neglected national infrastructure, the exhaustion of the highway trust fund, dealing meaningfully with climate change, adopting rational gun regulation, ratifying neglected treaties, undoing or adjusting sequestration, protecting instead of attacking women’s health issues, immigration reform, closing the loopholes for the rich in the tax code. Well, maybe it’s more than a dozen items.
Or maybe Congress can generalize the sudden consensus on reform of criminal sentencing laws into other areas.
Or maybe, just maybe, the Republican majority in the U.S. House will learn how to govern themselves, which means learning to compromise.
And maybe pigs will learn to fly.
- WC cannot overstate the irrationality of the Freedom Caucus. Sworn to uphold the government and the Constitution, their remedy of first and last resort is to threaten to shut down the government. Their’s is a terrorist approach to politics: “Do what we want to we will blow the place up!” ↩