As you all know, I am on a cruise, writing these posts from a spot on the Pacific Ocean. I’m currently six hours earlier than those on Eastern time, and thanks to the time difference and intermittent problems with Internet access, my grasp of the news is hit-or-miss. I’ve been following the incredible chaos playing out on the floor of the House of Representatives with what can only be called a feeling of unreality.
Evidently, Jim Jordan just lost his second attempt to be elected Speaker.
Jordan is easily one of the most despicable individuals ever to hold political office–and certainly one of the least able, least ethical, least accomplished people ever to be nominated as a leader of the legislative body. If successful, he would be third in line for the Presidency–a thought that makes me want to hurl.
Representative Pete Aguilar, a Democrat from California, really summed up the insanity of nominating someone like Jordan for Speaker. Aguilar began his brief talk by nominating Democratic minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (who garnered more votes than Jordan), and blaming extremism and partisanship for the unprecedented chaos of the House. He urged Republicans to “embrace bipartisanship to do the work the American people had sent them to Washington, D.C., to conduct,” an exhortation he must have known would fall on deaf ears.
Aguilar went on to point out that Jordan is the “architect of a nationwide abortion ban, a vocal election denier, and an insurrection inciter.”
He has “spent his entire career trying to hold our country back, putting our national security in danger, attempting government shutdown after government shutdown, wasting taxpayer dollars on baseless investigations with dead ends, authoring the very bill that would ban abortion nationwide without exceptions, and inciting violence on this chamber. Even leaders of his own party have called him ‘a legislative terrorist.’
Aguilar pointed to Jordan’s opposition to disaster relief, veterans’ relief, support for Ukraine, and military aid to our allies, including Israel, and added: “This body is debating elevating a speaker nominee who has not passed a single bill in 16 years. These are not the actions of someone interested in governing or bettering the lives of everyday Americans.” Jordan as speaker would mean the Republican Party would “continue taking marching orders from a twice-impeached former president with more than 90 pending felony charges.”
Aguilar’s litany was entirely accurate. (It was also incomplete–he omitted the scandal of Jordan’s coaching days, when he closed his eyes to the sexual abuse of his young athletes.)
What boggles the mind is that 200 House Republicans would ever vote to put someone accurately labeled a “legislative terrorist”–someone described by John Bohner as a destroyer, not a builder– in charge of anything, especially an American lawmaking body.
Sinclair Lewis warned us: it can happen here.
Thomas Edsall recently devoted a column to the state of American democracy, and included a quote from Liliana Mason that goes a long way toward explaining the otherwise inexplicable:
The election of Trump is the culmination of a process by which the American electorate has become deeply socially divided along partisan lines. As the parties have grown racially, religiously, and socially distant from one another, a new kind of social discord has been growing. The increasing political divide has allowed political, public, electoral, and national norms to be broken with little to no consequence. The norms of racial, religious, and cultural respect have deteriorated. Partisan battles have helped organize Americans’ distrust for “the other” in politically powerful ways. In this political environment, a candidate who picks up the banner of “us versus them” and “winning versus losing” is almost guaranteed to tap into a current of resentment and anger across racial, religious, and cultural lines, which have recently divided neatly by party.
We have evidently devolved as a nation into very strong, opposing tribal identities –in one of which racism plays a prominent role–and we now elect “lawmakers” who privilege their tribe’s “winning” over anything remotely resembling the common good.
Edsall also quoted Levitsky and Ziblatt, authors of a recent book on the perilous state of American democracy:
By 2016, America was on the brink of a genuinely multiracial democracy — one that could serve as a model for diverse societies across the world. But just as this new democratic experiment was beginning to take root, America experienced an authoritarian backlash so fierce that it shook the foundations of the republic, leaving our allies across the world worried about whether the country had any democratic future at all.
The results of the current effort to install a Speaker will be a clue……