On a recent episode of the Hypnotic History podcast, host Ashley Skidmore noted that in the 1970s the Schoolhouse Rock franchise self-censored a piece on our federal government. They worried the song, “Three ring government,” written to explain the balances between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, might be seen as offensive by likening the government to a circus.
I think most folks today can appreciate the irony of that decision.
If the federal government wasn’t a complete circus back in 1976 when the America Rock segments were added to the series lineup, 47 years later it’s devolved into little more than a sideshow.
For evidence we don’t have to look any further back than last week’s vote to remove Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy from his seat.
There may be no more quintessential example of the old phrase “politics makes for strange bedfellows” than what we’ve seen unfold over the past several weeks.
McCarthy in a show of political will and negotiation that – no matter your feelings about the man – demonstrated undeniable skill, was able to avert a government shutdown by presenting a plan that a majority of his colleagues, Democrat and Republican, could support. It’s the kind of bipartisan cooperation and progress we’d all like to see more of; where even if folks don’t agree on everything they find a way to do their jobs.
In doing so, however, he angered a small, but vocal, far-right contingent of his party.
Fast forward to last Tuesday when that small group of eight Republican representatives – probably the group with the least in common, ideologically, with any of their colleagues across the aisle – were joined by Democrats to remove the Speaker from his seat.
The same Democrats who just days before voted with McCarthy to pass a temporary spending bill and avoid a shutdown – for now.
Congressman Hal Rogers was quick to condemn the move, calling McCarthy’s ouster, “a monumental mistake,” and saying the Speaker, “showed immense courage and leadership by negotiating a deal… even at the risk of losing his gavel.”
We agree with Congressman Rogers.
McCarthy was brave. He took a risk, to allow Congress to do the job that the American people and government employees needed them to do. He reached across the aisle, working with political opponents, to get work done.
Then, the Democrats let him fall on his own sword.
Just a handful of Democrats could have voted with the bulk of Republicans and McCarthy could have kept his seat.
Instead, they voted with the far-right contingent of the party to help the extremist in his own party punish McCarthy for working with them.
It’s a cynical move, to be sure, but strategically it makes sense. Or, at least it does if you’re looking at control of Congress as a game of political football.
In the past the Republicans have made great gains when they voted as a unified block, even if they might share different opinions privately, while the Democrats were more fragmented as a party.
It only makes sense that Democrats, seeing the fissures in their opponent’s formerly uniform facade, would apply pressure there.
It’s just odd (Or is it ironic, Alanis?) that they’d end up partnering with who they did to make it happen.
But, sideshows thrive on oddities, after all.
And we’re the ones who keep sending in the clowns.