This past week Americans experienced something that has not happened for 100 years: The House of Representatives took more than a couple of days—and no fewer than 14 votes—to agree upon a speaker. It has been something of a fiasco for the Republican Party because there is no ideological division here. It is simply a power play by the most outspoken oligarchs in the party to force its establishment dinosaurs to concede an extraordinary amount of control to a very small group of fascists.
Something else historic has also happened this week: Americans have had a chance to watch and see so much more of the in-chamber processes that go on when voting gets messy in the modern American legislative branch. The old Saturday Night Live joke in the 1980s was that whenever you had to watch something political on C-SPAN the coverage came through the single camera the network owned. Not this week. This week, C-SPAN has been freed up to give new angles throughout the proceedings of the House voting process.
This has made the entire process so much more interesting to watch and follow than it might normally be.
Of course, the only reason this has been happening is that there is no official majority party making rules for Congress this session. Usually, the party in control creates specific views of what C-SPAN cameras can cover and broadcast and what they cannot. C-SPAN is operating under the rules established by Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the opening day of the 118th Congress in 2022. Of course, back then, Speaker Pelosi was able to get the confidence vote of her political party without days of theatrics. It has been a game changer in loosening up some of the stodginess of the political process.
Showing the entire chamber and the many interactions that go on or do not go on is an evolution of what the media gets to see. As CNN reports, when cameras were first allowed onto legislative branch floors, in the 1980s and 1990s, folks like Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia used the limited visibility they offered to pretend to be big men when, in fact, they were simply pretenders.
When cameras were first allowed, they became a potent political weapon. In the 1980s and early 1990s, congressmen such as Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia – later the House speaker – would give speeches criticizing Democrats meant only for the TV cameras. There would be few people in the chamber, and since lawmakers could speak on any subject, it seemed as if there were no answers from the other side.
There have been all kinds of moments showing the various group-ups different sets of representatives had during the many failed votes. Many of those meet-ups included political theater major Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.
There was this moment between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Paul Gosar where AOC showed her patience with a man very few people can stand to be around for more than a minute or two. Reportedly the two discussed the possibilities of a deal where Democratic representatives might throw enough votes McCarthy’s way to give him the Speaker position.
Now we get to see things like Florida man Matt Gaetz having half of his political party walk out on him while he was speaking.
Then there was the tragically comedic moment where the incompetent and lying Republican from New York, George Santos, wasn’t even able to do the single job he had.
All good things must come to an end and at some point, I’m sure the Republican Party will make sure that the cameras in the House stick tightly to a very narrow view. It isn’t that the conservatives in the party do not want Americans to see how they actually act on the floor of the House; it is that they don’t want the American people to become at all interested in what they actually do on the floor of the House.