A colleague of mine who I thought had no interest in politics made the most interesting comment about American government I have ever heard: “So much is based on faith and when that goes out the door, poof — it’s gone.”
That statement summarizes the chaos Republican members of the United States House of Representatives descended into this week when they repeatedly failed to fulfill prerogative as the dominant party in the House and elect the next House speaker.
That failure is rooted in the events that occurred two years ago today and the complicit silence House Republicans demonstrated in endorsing or failing to denounce the assault on the U.S. Capitol by insurrectionists motivated by former President Donald Trump.
Republicans, including speaker-hopeful Kevin McCarthy, thought they could have it both ways when it came to playing politics in the aftermath of an event that left people dead.
Hours after the insurrection ended, Republicans and Democrats denounced the chaos and violence that spilled into the Capitol’s halls on Jan. 6, 2021. But declamatory words did not translate into action for Republican House members who ran in fear when the mob surged into the Capitol only to oppose the formal acknowledgment of Joe Biden as the 2020 presidential election winner.
The Republican majority who failed to confront and denounce chaos two years ago rightly deserve the chaos visited upon them this week.
Chances are good that the speakership mess has been resolved by the time you read this. But even McCarthy’s ascendancy to the speaker’s seat or a similar ascent by a rival does not guarantee calm, order and good government in the U.S. House.
The Republican party is riven beyond repair with McCarthy haters indulging in Trump-inspired anarchy and more than a few party members wondering if they should have demonstrated the moral courage former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney put on full display during the Jan. 6 Committee hearings.
The “faith” my colleague referenced in his observation is the belief that governments need leaders and elections produce leaders.
We’ve fought and disagreed throughout our history over leaders and we never shy away from criticizing them. This week in the House Chamber we saw representatives reject belief in leadership in favor of warring factions generating chaos.
The one winner walking away from the mess is Trump. Like Elon Musk, Trump thrives on chaos. He won the 2016 election by upending established presidential campaign practices and he is a master at observing the chess board from both sides of the table.
Trump is so adept at plying his particular trade that he had U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert talking out of both sides of her mouth this week. She called Trump “her favorite president” in one breath and, in the next, criticized the former president for calling on House members to make McCarthy speaker.
Two facts are certain when it comes to Trump: He isn’t going anywhere and no one is going to make a criminal accusation stick on him. If Donald Trump was truly prosecutable, he would have been behind bars long ago.
But the end results of Trump’s action on this date two years ago and his influence on the U.S. House this week are a government that is doing nothing to improve American lives.
Just like my colleague said: “Poof — it’s gone.”