Chaos in Congress

There are so few times the older you get where you can honestly say you have never seen anything like this, but in my 40 years of politics I do not believe I have ever seen anything like the current chaos in Congress. There are so many dimensions from which to focus on it is chaotic even trying to keep track of what is happening from hour to hour. But one thing that seems to underlay the entire fiasco is the fact that the institution of the GOP is beset by a fatal internal inconsistency that is driving a huge wedge in between the concept of public service and serving the public.

At no time in my life can I recall either studying about or witnessing an organized political party overtaken by a conscientious and concerted effort to devote its considerable heft to destroying the levers of power that give it legitimacy. So in just a half century we have seen the venerable two-party system degenerate from one where arguments over the size of scope of government dominated to one where the existence of government itself has defined and redrawn the battle lines.

The Tea Party faction of the Republican Party has successfully navigated a Trojan horse into the palace gates and is attempting to destroy the enemy from within. Infiltration of the established ranks of government ultimately will triumph only if it succeeds in bringing an end to government itself, according to the new credo. To those of us who spent a career in public service with the intention of changing government to be more responsive to the needs of the population the subversion of governmental processes in an effort to destroy public confidence in its effectiveness is akin to sedition and smacks of a form of treason with respect to the spirt of the Constitution all elected officials have sworn to uphold.

I will be the first to admit that I value government. I strongly disagree with policies from time to time and am perfectly willing to work within the system to change them. I believe in representative democracy and once again believe that it can be used to effectuate positive outcomes for the society at large. I will even go so far as to say, at the risk of being accused of being naïve, that I believe government can work. It doesn't, but it can. I am sure that these statements that at one point may have seemed obvious on their face are looked upon as heretical by those wishing to stop government in its tracks.

There was a time when those who felt as I do were truly thought of as being revolutionaries. But the current revolution unfolding before our very eyes is squarely aimed at establishing an anti-government, anti-political system under the guise of a capitalist economic paradigm that metes out winners and losers with little or no regard to the fairness of the rewards for the former or the viciousness of the consequences for the latter.

Regardless of the true reasons why Boehner walked away from the Speakership or why McCarthy actually decided to withdraw from what only 10 days ago seemed like a sure bet to succeed him the major schism between the Freedom Fighters under the Tea Party banner and those who can loosely be characterized as establishment Republicans is that the former want to ruin while the latter feel compelled to rule. The insurgents in the current battle use public service as a tool to dismantle while careerists use it as a building block for both their own purposes but also for the purposes of advancing society.

This is not meant to be an argument for political careerism, there are dangers to that course as well but rather it is meant to distinguish between those who actually want to create a better society and those who wish to let society fend for itself. I have little doubt that the current vacancy for the Speaker's position will go unfilled for long. It is a plum job with enormous potential for advancement if filled by a person who wishes to fulfill the ideals so carefully enunciated by the Founding Fathers. But it can also be an attractive platform from which to foment enormously destructive maneuvers designed to thwart the will of the people.

Either way someone will garner enough votes to occupy it. But if the current chaos awakens the public consciousness to the dangers of paralytic obstruction we might just begin to start a very public rehabilitation built around the concepts of good government and enlightened public policies. If not we will continue to spiral down the very treacherous black hole of conflict, confrontation, and hopelessness that fuels anger, frustration and distrust.

Like it or not the Republican Party is under the microscope right now and how they react to this crisis will play a large role in the months leading up to the 2016 election. While the people continue to yearn for answers and solutions to their concerns hardening the silos to prevent compromise will only harden attitudes about which party is better suited in the aggregate to deal with the problems they face. So the stakes are extremely high for the GOP right now and how they handle this crisis will be instructive as to how they will fare next year. But for the first time in quite a while the very real possibility of Democrats retaking control of the House does not seem too far-fetched. It may be John Boehner's lasting legacy for the good of the Republic.