We all just witnessed an attack by fringe political zealots on one of the most important institutions in our democratic republic, the U.S. House of Representatives. We also saw how two centuries of American history have imbued that institution with strong bones and resilient muscle, as it withstood this unprecedented challenge.
To be sure, the House was conceived by the Founders to encourage vigorous debate, since it is not as uptight and stodgy as the Senate. But, for five days and fifteen ballots, the booger-eatin’ knuckle-draggers of the Freedom Caucus were not waging war against their political antagonists but against the institution itself.
In Dick and Lynn Cheney’s book “Kings of the Hill”, they recount a pre-WWII story about Nick Longworth, then the GOP Speaker of the House. His opposite number was the Minority Leader, Cactus Jack Garner.
Every day that the House was in session, Longworth would pick Garner up for work, and they’d take the long way around to the Capitol. During their commute, the two leaders would discuss the business of the House for the day.
They’d horsetrade in the limo about what needed to happen on the floor – who needed to do what, which bills to amend, whose vote they both needed and how to sweet-talk or bluster to get that vote.
By the time they pulled up to the Capitol to start the work day, the business of the House was pretty well greased, and legislation important to the country would be passed with a minimum of fuss and rancor.
I’m sure that a card-carryin’ Freedom Caucus stormtrooper would read that story, pound the table, froth at the mouth and exclaim, “Aha!! Two elite swamp rats conspiring to cram stuff down We the People’s throat!.”
They should instead remove the log from their eye and see two patriotic representatives of We the People who understand their responsibilities and who masterfully and respectfully use their House membership to advance the work of our nation.
Sadly, the decorum and collegiality of Longworth and Garner is impossible today. Today’s politician is more interested in posturing for C-SPAN, counting political coup and raising obscene amounts of money.
And, while it may not be exactly what the Founders had in mind, the House as an institution is fully capable of accommodating nonsense like that while still remaining fully functional.
But these Freedom Caucus neanderthals are a different critter entirely. Instead of legislating, they are more prone to pitch tantrums like toddlers, roll on the floor and hold their breath ‘til they turn blue if they don’t get their way.
They have proven that they are not above monkey-wrenching the mechanism of the House out of spite, fear or partisan machismo. They have demonstrated that they are willing to pull the temple down around them, just to make a point.
Attacking political enemies is one thing, but attacking the institution that provides an avenue for political argument and an alternative to blood in the streets is something totally different. That is the path to madness.
It is doubly disturbing to read that Wyoming’s “home grown” Freedom Caucus wants to closely identify with the D.C. version, and introduce that deconstructionist anarchy into our own legislature.
We, the citizens of the Cowboy State, need to watch this decidedly un-cowboy horseshit like hawks unless we want to see our own institutions subjected to the same chaos and stupidity that occurred in the U.S. House this week.
We the People of Wyoming need to grab a tight grip on the reins and be ready to pull back hard.