Far from the new era of bipartisan accomplishment promised by President Biden and much touted by the Fourth Estate, the House of Representatives appears embroiled in acrimony and an aura of near-open hostility. At the heart of this political sniping is the idea that many Democrat lawmakers simply do not and will not see Republicans as colleagues. In the aftermath of the January 6 riot, there is a pervasive belief that those who supported President Trump in any way should not be part of the national conversation, let alone part of government.
But is there perhaps something more? Could this be a case of the lawmaker doth protest too much?
A Little Less Conversation
During a hearing on the postal service – which should otherwise have been a rather staid affair – GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio accused Democrats of prior partisanship regarding Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. In a burst of anger, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) erupted, saying, “I didn’t vote to overturn an election. And I will not be lectured by people who did, about partisanship.”
Adding to the acrimonious festivities, Illinois Rep. Sean Casten (D) forced a floor vote over a bill regarding a post office naming because it was authored by a Republican who spoke out on January 6. “It’s impossible for us to not look at them in a different light,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) of the lawmakers who questioned some of the 2020 election results.
Democratic New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a one-time challenger to Nancy Pelosi, accused Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) of providing aid and comfort to insurrectionists. McCarthy replied that the Democrats were adopting “strategies of grievance” to silence Americans represented by the GOP.
A Little More Action, Please?
Was McCarthy accusing House Democrats of playing it up for the crowd in order to avoid a bipartisan working relationship? Some lawmakers have suggested that to work with Republicans would be beyond the pale.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) continued to push her widely-publicized theme of murderers in the GOP. She said:
“It is going to be much harder to work across the aisle … Even in the aftermath of the sixth, there were [Republican] members that were kind of deliberately advancing falsehoods about my location, and then turning around and saying, ‘I’d love for us to work together sometime’ … This is very serious. Many members of Congress nearly died … So, the idea that people just want to pretend that that has no impact on their ability to work is quite shocking, I think, and absurd.”
Her colleague Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) offered a similar summation, adding, “It’s an improbable situation because these are the people that tried to undermine our government. And they may be no less guilty than the people who attacked the Capitol.”
Rep. Kildee perhaps gave the most succinct assessment of present conditions, saying, “We have choices in terms of how we interact and with whom we work, and who we choose to help co-lead bipartisan efforts. And I think that’s more likely to be how this will be manifest.”
Fury Or Face-Saving?
When the race for the 2022 midterms begins in earnest, will lawmakers be using the conspirator screed to explain why so little of their legislative agenda has been achieved? With razor-thin majorities in both chambers (thanks to the vote of Vice President Harris in the Senate), getting almost any bills passed would have required a great effort. Have Democrats decided that rather than compromise, they will ask the American public to empathize with their predicament and understand that working with seditionists was never a real option?
When it comes to wielding and retaining power, it appears any and all strategies of grievance are applicable.
Read more from Mark Angelides.