The recent manufactured chaos in the Congress points to the need for change. Campaign finance reform would fix dysfunction without term limits.
Congress Is Broken. Change Is Necessary
After more than three weeks without a Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the “Freedom” Caucus’ Tyranny of the Minority ended on October 25, 2023 with the election of Trump loyalist Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as Speaker.
Many Americans … including me … were wringing their hands over the lack of a fully functioning government in the US for 22 days, while the world was flying apart with multiple wars involving our allies; climate change causing extreme weather and population migration; domestic terrorists shooting innocent Americans in bowling allies, bars, schools, churches, grocery stores, sporting events and homes every day — AND no federal budget.
Given all of this, the Republicans’ election of an ultraconservative fringe candidate to Speaker of the House shows a shocking disregard for the seriousness of the issues facing our nation and the world.
Why elect a Congressional newbie, whose ideas are out-of-step with the majority of Americans and who has no management experience or background relevant to a position that is third in line for the Presidency? It makes you wonder who will really be in charge. Who will be writing the script … and thus, controlling the narrative?
When Ronald Reagan was president, many of us on the left believed that he was “the talent,” and “they” — a mysterious force pulling the strings in the background — wrote the scripts for the puppet to read. We didn’t know exactly who “they” were, but we didn’t believe this has-been actor was a brilliant — or even mediocre — political and economic theorist. Who was in charge during the Reagan Era? Was it the “deep state” or the “military industrial complex” or ALEC?1 Reagan used his folksy cowboy charm to sell trickledown economics, union-busting, energy crisis denial, military adventurism, cuts in public assistance to “Welfare Queens,” cuts to school lunches, a naïve “Just Say No” approach to drug addiction for suburban teenagers and mandatory sentencing for people of color.
Decades later, our country is still suffering from Reagan’s bad policies because Republicans are still peddling these socially backward and often racist and discriminatory ideas.
Who will be writing Johnson’s script?
Johnson looks like a mild-mannered, highly scripted nobody with good hair and a perplexed Charlie Brown nonsmile. In his recent America America Substack article entitled A Sad Day for Democracy, author Steven Beschloss enlightens us as to how extreme Johnson is. Johnson is Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) without the Ohioan’s rabid dog demeanor. Both had former President Donald Trump’s endorsement for Speaker. Johnson is a Congressional newcomer who was elected in 2016, a MAGA acolyte, an election-denier, and a climate change denier from oil country in Louisiana (no $surprises$ there). He’s also an Evangelical Christian who believes he was divinely chosen for the job of Speaker and who opposes LGBTQ rights and abortion rights. I see more culture wars ahead. Johnson has been in office only a few days and is already railing about “wokeness.” Good grief. What about real issues like the budget deadline on November 17, 2023
Electing a Speaker, who is out-of-touch with the majority of Americans, on a party line vote with the slimmest of majorities, is what happens when a political party and the money behind it care more about retaining power than governing in an equitable and just manner.
Now that their guy has been installed as Speaker, will the Freedom Caucus shut down the government in a few weeks? Maybe. Republican brinksmanship has shut down the US government in the past.
How did we get here? What can we do about it?
When stupidly stubborn politicians cause unnecessary chaos in government, disgruntled voters often get a “throw the bums out” attitude at election time. In just one month, Republicans made history by firing the Speaker of the House, stalled the budget process, paralyzed the government for 22 days, and elected a Trump loyalist for Speaker on a party line vote. If they fail to negotiate a budget quickly and choose to shut down the government instead, voters — of any persuasion — won’t be happy with their performance or the financial fallout from the self-inflected budget crisis.
Beyond voting, there have been rumblings about other strategies to change Congress — most notably term limits.
Thanks to name recognition, incumbent financial advantages, gerrymandering, too many safe seats for one party or the other, and unlimited Big Money donations, some people have served for decades in Congress — like the late Senators Dianne Feinstein (90, died in office), John McCain (81, died in office), Robert Byrd (92 at retirement), Strom Thurmond (100, died in office) and many more long-term electeds who are still in Congress like Senators Charles Grassley (90), Mitch McConnell (81), Bernie Sanders (82) and more. (The US House also has people who have served for decades. Check out the ages of the people in the 118th Congress.)
I don’t mean to pick on the older members2 of Congress because intransigence and lack of progress on key issues isn’t solely their fault, but being mostly rich, white cis gender men, they are out of touch with large swaths of the American public.
Money controls Congress — not the voters or even the politicians themselves. That is why term limits won’t solve our problems in Congress. With term limits, members will come and go quickly. The power and institutional memory will be held by the special interest groups, corporations and wealthy individuals, who have the cash to hire armies of lobbyists to schmooze a revolving door of fresh-faced elected officials.
Continue Reading on Substack …
Read the rest of Congress Is Broken. Change Is Necessary., along with Rest in Power, John C. Scott and Javalinas Enjoy Sedona Golf Course … Of Course! in Today’s Shorts: Term Limits, Remembering John & Javalinas in Sedona at Powers for the People on Substack.