The United States Congress: Decorum Lost

Lord, what would the Founders say if they read the letter from the Congressional Black Caucus to President Trump indicating their desire to “educate” him on all things relating to—what else—the Black community?  It is one thing to enfranchise a group in our representative government; but to be condescended to by them in this manner?  Gerrymandered districts have given us an abundance of diversity in the House of Representatives, and to a lesser extent, the Senate.  This sometimes results in a complete debacle of stumbling incompetence and embarrassing displays of semi-literacy.  But what is most offensive, these diverse Congress critters exhibit impudence and a breach of decorum, which again, makes one think back to the Founders with regret.

The Congressional Black Caucus rejected Trump’s offer for a second meeting because his initiatives would not meet their agenda.  They’re not used to not getting their way.  In fact, many protected groups are having a hard time adjusting to the Trump Era.

They chided our President: “We took advantage of every opportunity to educate you on the needs of the Black community and provide you with the information and solutions necessary to act on them in good faith.”  Never mind the futility of any “solution” to the needs of the Black community that has already been the recipient of trillions in federal aid with nothing to show for it. What strikes one is their refusal to attend a civil meeting when their demands are not immediately accommodated. Could it be that Trump is not buying into the minority grievance industry?  

On the list of CBC grievances are cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program, and the repeal of Obamacare. The prospect of a repeal/replace of Obamacare seems to hit the Black community especially hard, because not only would that mean less free stuff, but it would also imply that their First Black President and the Democratic-controlled Congress maybe weren’t all that great at crafting legislation.  Blacks take this kind of thing rather personally.

A member of the CBC, Rep. Gregory Meeks, noted, “Until we can deal with substance and issues, what’s the benefit of a meeting?”  That’s a fair point.  There is no benefit of meeting.

Elijah Cummings, the former chairman of the CBC, is a good example of what I mean when I refer to the loss of decorum in our noble institution, the United States Congress.  Cummings is a “civil rights icon,” and therefore we must only speak of him in hushed, reverent tones.  Instead of reasoned debate, his preferred method of discourse is bursts of petulant emotion, usually with arms flailing and eyes bulging.  He is a front-line infantry soldier for the real brains behind the Democrat party, sent to obstruct hearings with a set of talking points simple enough for him to repeat.  He seems to relish this role, and excoriates Republicans in a frankly savage manner.

This is most vividly illustrated in an incident last year, when Rep. Darrell Issa was compelled to shut off Rep. Cummings’ microphone when he refused to accept that Issa, as the chairman, had adjourned a hearing.  The hearing related to the sordid matter of the Lois Lerner IRS scandal.  In her testimony, she refused to answer questions, prompting Issa to end the hearing in frustration.  Cummings, however, was not quite done grandstanding: “Let me ask my question,” he shouts wildly, after Issa had already pounded the gavel.  The man does not like rules, it does not comport with his nature.  He seems more inclined to primal shows of force as a method for transacting politics.

Issa then gives in and invites him to ask his question, at which point Cummings begins reading directly from his talking points, holding up a piece of paper and reading verbatim; again, presumably written by some left-wing policy wonk.  Issa, in exasperation, simply shuts down the meeting when it becomes clear that Cummings’ “question” is not really a question at all.

Cummings continues though, his pride wounded, literally yelling into the microphone, “I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America, I am tired of this.”  As the room clears out, another dreadlocked Black guy in a suit (a funny image in itself) has insinuated himself behind Issa with arms crossed menacingly, giving a kind of “amen” to Cummings’ rant.  Issa looks over his shoulder to this man, as if he’s assessing whether he’s about to be physically attacked.  It’s as though they’re preparing for a “Black power” coup right on the House floor!  I ask the reader, is this the inevitable outcome of Blacks becoming involved in our government’s deliberative bodies?

Another example of this type of incivility is when Senator Kamala Harris questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the Intelligence Committee Hearing.  This hearing was never-ending saga of Trump-Russia collusion.  Harris, by the way, is of African/Jamaican/Indian/Asian heritage — and thus a poster child of the ascendant majority and likely soon-to-be presidential candidate.

When Harris repeatedly interrupted Sessions, he protested, “Well, let me qualify [my response].  If I don’t qualify it, you’ll accuse me of lying.”  Harris’ hectoring of Sessions was so inappropriate that it required the intervention of — to his credit — Senator John McCain, who reprimanded Harris: “Chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the question.” To this point Chairman Richard Burr advised Harris accordingly.  During her testy exchange with Jeff Sessions, Harris otherwise had a kind of supercilious grin.  She was radiating contempt, as though he had somehow not earned the respect of his former peers in the Senate.

Harris continued her disrespectful, interrupting ways in questioning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during another Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.  Once again John McCain was compelled to implore the chairman, “They should be allowed to answer the question.”  Chairman Richard Burr advised Harris to “provide the witnesses the courtesy” that had been so lacking in the hearing.  Her expression during this reprimand displayed even more agitation, as if to say, “Who is this White man telling me what to do?”  After all, wasn’t that the ethos during the Obama era?

As American readers are aware, there are many examples besides the ones listed above where the dignity of our government is being compromised by POC expressing their contempt for the traditional customs and proprieties that ultimately support republican government.  These are just a couple that come to mind at this particular time in history.  This topic could even encompass a book perhaps—though a thoroughly depressing one.  What we are seeing is that traditional norms of decorum clash with the sensibilities of the coalition of the ascendant.  In the end, all our institutions and culture will disappear if things keep going this way.

Follow Malcolm Jaggers @malcolmjaggers; contact him via email

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