Grand Gestures, Signaling Nothing
By Mary Keyes Rogers | Dec. 19, 2020
Who doesn’t like a fresh start?
We set off for new horizons with grand gestures, like a newly committed dieter tossing all the junk food from the pantry into the trash or spending an outrageous amount of money on exercise equipment. Big, bold moves.
Thoughts of a new year and a new administration had me giddy for a fresh start in Washington, D.C.
Swept up in the possibilities, I thought, What if the U.S. House and Senate agreed to make the grand gesture of putting party politics aside in a pledge to bipartisan cooperation, installing fresh leadership in both the U.S. Senate and the House? Wouldn’t that be grand!
Honestly, sometimes I crack myself up.
While American voters were paying attention to ballot counts (and recounts) in the weeks following the Nov. 3 election, there were other elections, taking place in Washington, D.C. that leave me befuddled, forlorn, and furious.
Two weeks after the presidential election, with Republicans working under the assumption that they had narrowly retained the majority of Senate seats (Note: the Georgia runoff is now scheduled for Jan. 5) and Democrats had maintained only a slim majority status of House seats, both political parties held their respective elections of leadership positions.
These insider elections — naming the speaker, majority and minority leaders, whips, etc. — are the Olympics of inner-guard party politics. These are the folks who will run the show, make the deals, set the legislative agenda, assign committee seats and chairmanships, and, with them, the accompanying perks of staff, budgets, and office space.
Guess what happened? Nothing.
Turns out, there will be no changes in leadership. Zip.
Not one elected official, neither Democrat nor Republican, in the House nor the Senate, dared to challenge an incumbent party leader. Not one!
Can you imagine? The inner-circle thugs ran unopposed. Unopposed? How does that possibly happen in a body of government populated by the most ambitious self-interested humans on the planet?
It happens under fear. Plain and simple. Fear of the iron fist that controls committee assignments, perks, and, above all, campaign fundraising by the leaders of their respective party. And it brings an age-old problem to mind:
Oct. 2, 1789
Dear Mr. Jackson,
... There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
With great esteem and respect,
Dec. 19, 2020
Dear John Adams,
I have some bad news …
This state of affairs demonstrates, in the clearest of terms, the current reality of John Adams' dread, revealing the greatest political evil under our Constitution. Adams was not alone in this concern. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and others deliberately left political parties out of the Constitution, knowing their ruinous impact on a republic. Yet even they found themselves dividing into Democratic-Republicans and Federalists by the time our constitution was ratified.
While our newsfeeds have focused on Trump’s iron-fisted Machevelian control over members of the GOP, from city clerks to governors to senators, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell are doing precisely the same thing in Congress within their respective party caucuses. No criticism or opposition is permitted.
And, although the incoming members of the next Congress will need to wave their wand of approval for leadership positions, believe me, this is a done deal.
The power of the presidency lies in the authority to act. The power of this House and Senate lies in paralysis.
During this current congressional session, Nancy Pelosi, 80, has been almost exclusively devoted to silencing the ambitions and agenda of the far-left factions within the Democratic Party.
Legislation that was muscled through House committees to floor votes were then dead on arrival to the Senate, landing at the welcome mat of Senate Majority Leader and Obstructionist-in-Chief, Mitch McConnell.
McConnell, 78, is the longest-serving Republican Senate leader in American history. When the Obama administration entered the White House, his pledge as senate majority leader was that the Senate’s highest priority was to ensure that Obama would serve only one term; nothing coming from Democrats would pass in his Senate. He has maintained his obstructionist ways since and promises the same for Biden, regardless of the merit of legislation.
This refusal by both Democrats and Republicans to find a path to bipartisanship is indeed a grand gesture of the greatest political evil under our Constitution, and neither party is innocent.
There will be no fresh start.
Mary Keyes Rogers lives in Traverse City. She can be found online at experience50.com.