The United States: Normality in Question

The vote to elect the speaker of the House of Representatives made it clear that the United States is a long way from recovering the political “normality” that has been lost since Donald Trump announced he would run for president in 2015.

For the first time in a century, it was not possible to choose a speaker (the person who heads the legislative body and thus becomes the third most important figure in the U.S. government, after the president and vice president) in the first round of voting. Two additional rounds of voting held before the session was adjourned served only to block any agreement.

On paper, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy should have no problem establishing himself as House leader. His party controls 222 seats and only 218 are required to win the vote. But the normal thing, which would have been the immediate victory of the candidate with the most support within the majority party, was derailed by the intransigence of 20 legislators who remain loyal to former President Trump. On the one hand, the negotiations over concessions in exchange for votes should have been ongoing for weeks. On the other hand, these 20 representatives flatly refuse to support someone who is not conservative enough, that is, who does not adhere to the kind of Neanderthal hegemonic masculinity that has represented Republicanism for decades.

The impasse generated by the Trumpist ultra-right is far from trivial: The legislative body is legally prevented from dealing with any other issue until a new speaker is elected, thus new rules and legislation cannot be adopted and new members of Congress cannot be sworn in. The rules indicate that the only valid procedure is to continue the ballotting until someone gets 218 votes; accordingly, this political crisis could continue indefinitely.

Beyond what happens today when the House resumes voting, the business tycoon’s ability to damage institutions has become clear, even when he doesn’t hold any office. Also clear is the power of a stubborn ultra-right minority to block procedures that could lead to a normal — although not necessarily optimal – state of affairs.

On a deeper level, the crisis experienced in the House of Representatives points to the need to address the dysfunction of the U.S. political-electoral system, an 18th century construction that is inadequate to govern the destiny of modern society.

About this publication

About Patricia Simoni 184 Articles
I began contributing to Watching America in 2009 and continue to enjoy working with its dedicated translators and editors. Latin America, where I lived and worked for over four years, is of special interest to me. Presently a retiree, I live in Morgantown, West Virginia, where I enjoy the beauty of this rural state and traditional Appalachian fiddling with friends. Working toward the mission of WA, to help those in the U.S. see ourselves as others see us, gives me a sense of purpose.

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