It would be generous to say that the Republican Party is a chaotic manifestation of political madness. Eight miscreants toppled House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and could not select a speaker for nearly two weeks. Indeed, at this writing, Republican leadership is still up in the air, and both former speaker McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have scolded Congressional Republicans for their embarrassing immaturity.
In some ways, this is the work of the former President, who is implicitly on the ballot for speaker. McCarthy was deposed because Trump ally Matt Goetz (R-FL) called for a vote on his leadership. Since then, no Republican has been able to corral the necessary majority to assume the speakership. It is amusing that Republicans want to blame Democrats for this nonsense, insisting that it was “Democrats joining with eight Republicans” to oust McCarthy. The chaos results from an internal Republican fight, and Democrats have nothing to do with it. But that’s the Republican way, isn’t it, inspired by the former President? When things don’t go your way, blame somebody, anybody, for your troubles.
While Congressional Democrats have behaved quite in contrast with disorderly Republicans, ably led by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), we Democrats have problems of our own. The Biden-Harris administration has done good work (which I don’t always agree with, especially around the Middle East). Still, there is an uncomfortable silence from Democrats around the 2024 election and its prospects. All of the good Biden-Harris is doing is swallowed by troubling imagery, poor communication, and voter apathy. We are months before caucuses and primary activity and a year before a 2024 election, but the tepid Biden approval polls have to cause concern. A Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll says that 51 percent say the economy was better under the previous President (what!), and the President can’t seem to get past a 40 percent approval rating.
Democrats have shut down any potential opposition to Biden almost as effectively as Republicans have allowed the previous President to squash any Republican opponent. In both parties, though, there are whispers and even shouts about the weaknesses of the frontrunners. In the Biden case, a little competition might help our present leaders sharpen their saw and demonstrate their strength to doubters. Imagine that a California governor, Gavin Newsome (D), a leader who plays progressive but is a centrist moderate, showed up on the debate stage with Biden. Imagine President Biden could strongly and forcefully make a case for another term. Biden might emerge from such a debate elevated and ready for a November race. Instead, the silence of the Democrats and the surrender to a Biden inevitability weakens, not strengthens, the Democratic party. I’m a believer in PROVERBS 27:17, “iron sharpens iron.” It suggests that opposition forces us to “up our game” and improves us.
A turn on the debate stage will benefit Vice President Harris, as well, if she takes advantage of it. Some of the chatter about our Vice President is ugly, misogynistic, and racist. She’s not perfect – no politician is. But she is intelligent, riveting, brilliant, and experienced. She has met with foreign leaders, repairing relationships that the previous President trampled on. She has been a spokesperson and a kinetic leader. Her HBCU tour this fall has galvanized young people, a desperate need for the Democratic Party. She deserves applause, not derision. The debate stage, challenged by a strong Democrat, is an opportunity for her to strut her stuff.
The questions that many are asking about President Biden and the Biden-Harris ticket need to be addressed. Democrats don’t gain anything by quelling dissent. Instead, we should encourage it so that our leaders can answer criticism with vigorous enthusiasm and information. And while Republican internal dissent is amusing and embarrassing, it is presently unhelpful and a barrier to national progress. We have less than a month for a budget deal, emergencies in Ukraine and the Middle East, economic challenges, and other matters. The House can’t move forward without a Speaker. Dissent is one thing; dysfunction is another. How can we fix our broken political system?