Last week we chewed the fat about the importance of the political center in America as a counter-balance against the caustic zaniness that is evident on the extreme sides of things.
This week we are witnessing what happens when that center does not hold.
The U.S. House of Representatives has been without a speaker since a cabal of House Republicans turned on the sitting speaker and joined House Democrats in ousting Kevin McCarthy. The eight GOP fire-breathers involved were motivated, it seems, by nothing more than petty, partisan populism, and the fact that their MAGA noses were out of joint.
They were also goaded by a petulant ex-president facing multiple criminal indictments who refuses to give up his delusions of grandeur.
The result that has been dropped into the lap of the American citizenry is a House left rudderless and impotent in the face of a hot war in the Holy Land that threatens to engulf a lot more than that troubled region.
And the center in our nation’s capitol did nothing to prevent this train wreck.
To be sure, the U.S. House was designed by our founders to accommodate cantankerousness among its members. The theory being that there are enough seats in the House to prevent everyone from going crazy at the same time. The center was meant to be big enough to hold out against extremism on the margins.
And that theory has held throughout two and a half centuries of American crises. Until now.
What Matt Gaetz and his fellow House conspirators attacked was not just a sitting speaker of the house, but also the institution itself. They drew their long knives against the very stability and equilibrium of the organ of Congress that has the power to make war and controls the finances of our nation.
They, and the Democrats who joined them, have made the House of the people into a Chinese fire drill of partisan chaos. And to what end?
My suspicion is that they didn’t act out of a sincere desire to see our institutions work for the benefit of all citizens, but out of a childish pique. I think they have bought into extremist dogma that drives them to tear the whole thing down if they can’t get their way, and to laugh at the rubble they created.
And the center did nothing to stop them.
What can we in Wyoming do to prevent a similar occurrence in the Cowboy State?
Wyoming is, geographically, close to the center of the country. Our institutions should be able to withstand the political insanity that seems to come from being too close to an ocean.
But we’ll all need to work on it. State government is just as tempting a target for political extremism as is national government.
I might suggest that we treat with skepticism any Wyoming politician who says our system has failed the people, and that we need to tear it down and start from scratch. If they are too dumb or lazy to make things work now, they’ll sure as hell be too dumb and lazy to build anything new from the ashes.
If politicians consider their political opponents as enemies to be defeated and their bloodlines wiped out, instead of as fellow citizens with opposing views, those politicians will never be able to operate in a pluralistic system like ours. They’ll advocate for tearing the system down so that only their views prevail.
Listen closely to politicians that are trying to grab your attention. If they speak rhetoric instead of reason, it says they are parroting the words of others rather than thinking for themselves. If their eyes glaze over and they blow snot bubbles when they talk, their minds are made up that they know what is best for you.
If a politician tries to appeal to the darker fringes of your mind (and yep, we all have those) instead of to your conscience and to your own center, they are telling you precisely what they will do if given an election certificate.
Simply stated, if the center is to hold in Wyoming politics, it must first hold within the Wyoming citizen.
Rod Miller can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org