When will this madness end? The senate, in an unprecedented 51 to 50 vote approved a demonstrably unqualified nominee, Betsy DeVos, to be Secretary of Education. Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with the 46 Democrats and 2 Independents to oppose the nomination creating the 50-50 tie that was broken by the vice president who sided with all the other Republicans. I characterize this as madness because it is clear that Ms. DeVos’ lack of qualifications and the welfare of the Education Department were not foremost in the minds of the Republicans. Instead, this is a blatant exercise of partisan power.
Our system is broken. Though both major political parties can rightly be criticized for their contribution to this dysfunction, one party, the Republican party, deserves much of the blame. Rather than engaging in substantive policy debates and reaching workable compromises, they instead focused exclusively on blocking all initiatives from the other side, often to the detriment of the public good. In the process, they systematically discarded all norms and conventions of civilized political discourse. Failing to take needed steps to repair defects in the ACA while supporting bills that weakened it, blocking needed infrastructure spending proposal is by president Obama, refusing to consider the Garland nomination for nearly a year are but a few examples of their obstructionist stances that worked counter to the best interest of the American people.
Now that they have control over both houses of congress and the presidency one wonders why the Republicans continue to extend their fight with Democrats by unanimously supporting the fringe nominees of a seemingly emotionally disturbed president. (Senators Collins and Murkowski supported DeVos in committee which precipitated the full floor vote that enabled her selection.) If Republicans are interested in governing why would they support incompetence and/or divisiveness in leadership roles? The answer, I fear, is that they fear Donald Trump and are more interested in gaining and maintaining political power than they are in the well-being of the American people. They are complicit in the destruction of the infrastructure of our government in the process.
What can we do? We must hold them accountable. The massive protests leveled at Trump’s conflicts of interest, his Muslim ban, Devos approval as Secretary of Education, Session approval as Attorney General, the pending selection of Tom Price as HHS head and the like should be redirected to the enablers, senate Republicans. Only they have the power to constrain this president and they will only respond to our interests if their jobs and power are put at stake.