The House Has No Speaker

It had been a decade of “historic” events thus far. “Historic” being a polite euphemism for: a whole lot of fucked-up shit occurring back-to-back that only sought to prove the U.S. wasn’t really a democracy. So what was one more “historical event” in a sea of so many? So many that had caused nothing but more apathy among the public as they could no longer bother to process all the horrendous things happening in general, but, more specifically, within and as a result of their government. The government alleged to be set up to protect the public’s interests, yet only doing everything in its power to ensure their demise. The worst kind of demise, in fact… in that it was slow and insidious, rather than abrupt and painless.

That pain was about to get worse as Representative Kelvin McDonough was getting the cold shoulder from his own party. The traitorous bastards. Roughly twenty members standing between him and Speaker of the House glory. It had happened many times before to many different men, but never was it worse timing than now—when the GOP needed an allied front (even if riddled with infighting behind closed doors) in order to combat the easily dominated Democrats. Or rather, they would be easily dominated if the GOP could simply get its shit together by putting their inane quibbles aside. Really, how bad did it look that they were more disorganized than the Dems in achieving their own far less lofty (for instance, it’s not as though they were trying to combat climate change) party-oriented objectives?

Unfortunately, petty feuds and rivalries were causing a major jam in the House. And not the kind that Bill Clinton would have been responsible for with his saxophone. No, this was instead a deliberate holding up of affairs by certain key members of the House refusing to vote for McDonough merely because he was a representative from California. That undercover conservative state that conservatives still hated because they were convinced that San Francisco was somehow emblematic of the entire jurisdiction. But, in contrast, the Golden State appeared to be growing more dangerously “red” by the day.

McDonough was part of that “red” problem (would that red actually did embody communism in this case, as it did during a certain other Republican Congressman’s 1950s heyday). For he had carved out a sizable dominion for himself in the twenty-second congressional district, which was another “armpit” of the state (neck and neck with the Fresno realm), featuring such sweat stains as Lamont, McFarland, Wasco and select swathes of Tulare and Bakersfield. In short, nothing to beep one’s own horn about. But that’s what McDonough did constantly, wanting so desperately to be seen as a leader in Washington.

Alas, it was the same old issue: “real” politicians never took Californian ones seriously for “big office.” Especially not after Nixon. It was one thing to let McDonough be the minority leader—giving him the “bragging rights” to be deemed the first California Republican (something that should really be an oxymoron) to take on that role. But it was quite another to surrender something as important as Speaker of the House to him. Not after they had also just gotten rid of that witch, Franny Lugosi (no relation to Bela). There had never been a more important moment in molding the House’s trajectory than this one. Who the Republicans voted for next could shape politics for years to come, and they weren’t about to settle for McDonough merely because he was the “only option.” Fuck that. There were always other options… in politics, that typically meant causing a stalemate until a desired result could be achieved on the strong-arming party’s end.

Thus, at the (non-)conclusion of the voting session, McDonough could scarcely believe the extent of his own “brethren’s” pettifogging. Didn’t they understand that no matter what they thought, he was their last and best choice (not just because he was the only choice)? But they didn’t think him capable of the grave responsibility that came with the job description: “…the Speaker maintains order, manages its proceedings and governs the administration of its business.” As if McDonough hadn’t done all of that when he chaired the Young Republicans before joining the House of Representatives. Never mind that he had a tendency to overspend taxpayer money on the furnishing of pastries and bottled water at political powwows—it was for the good of networking. Building a sense of camaraderie.

Constituents didn’t understand the finer points of politicking and, goddammit, that required pastries! Not having town hall meetings with plebes complaining about this, that and the other. Maybe that’s why McDonough hadn’t offered a town hall since 2010. Why bother? They all yammered on about the same thing: taxes were too high, their power was always being cut off, they were concerned about a strip club being opened in their neighborhood. Garden-variety plebe problems he had left behind when he became a big kahuna in Congress (on a side note: McDonough didn’t care if it was now viewed as appropriation to use the phrase “big kahuna”).

And, even despite all his kowtowing to the “people that mattered,” he was still ostensibly left with nothing. That is to say, no Speaker of the House role. Frederick Huntington Gillett never had to endure this kind of shame. For yes, his name kept coming up as a benchmark for being the last time in Congressional history (namely, 1923) when the House had to vote more than once to elect a speaker. Just another reason this itself was “historic,” not to mention highly embarrassing. Well, McDonough wasn’t going to give up. He had plenty of pastries to bribe their fat, pale stomachs with. He could keep going forever. Mounting backlog of legislation to be passed be damned! Congress wasn’t about passing legislation—ha! That was a choirboy’s myth. It was about power, and clinging to it at all costs. Even the cost of fledgling infrastructure, education, health care reform, transportation and everything else in between that Republicans had no regard for as they struggled to agree on a “suitable” candidate for the position.

What if the House never managed to elect a speaker? Some (though probably few) might inquire. What did that “say” about America? Only what its denizens had known somewhere not-so-deep-down all along. Their voice was never represented in Congress to begin with, so what was really the difference if there was no “official” speaker? From the start, the true majority hadn’t been spoken for anyway, and likely wouldn’t be no matter which puppet was implemented. Oh wait, “voted for.”

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