It was said of the dictator Mussolini, “at least he made the trains run on time.” Not to overlook all his wickedness, yes, he did, to his credit. Let’s hear it for dictatorships! On the surface, dictatorships may look neat and efficient. The leader speaks and it is done. Any dissent is quickly stomped on. By contrast, democracies (and representative democracies such as the U.S.) can look messy. Dissenting voices are allowed to speak, discussion and trade-offs usually win the day. Nobody gets everything.

Some say the Republican deliberations in the House of Representatives were chaos, a debacle, an embarrassment. How so? This is free speech in action. While not condoning any incivility or strong-arm tactics, it was a victory for democracy. A strong but growing minority within the Republican Party (MAGA conservatives, not “‘extremists” or “terrorists”) were granted a voice and ultimately, a place at the table. This minority had been sent by their constituents to effect change, to break up the status quo, the “go along to get along” crew, ‘“Democrat-lite.” Through a long process, 15 votes, important concessions were made on both sides. This is how it should be. Now, the people back home are watching to see if they will work together.

To the disappointment of those who gleefully predicted ongoing dysfunction, the Republicans came together very quickly in a heartening show of unity. Within two days they passed a rules bill that restored the House to what it had been before former Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the gavel and silenced all opposition. Now anyone can speak and even challenge the Speaker. Another bill passed was one eliminating 1,000-page omnibus spending bills that members didn’t even have time to read. Remember Madame Pelosi: “We have to pass it first, then we can know what’s in it.” No more! This bill carries weight because all spending bills originate in the House. Republicans even set up committees to carry out the work of the House. All this in two days. The latest word is a new bi-partisan committee (with many Democrats) to look into Chinese influence in the U.S.

Voters will be watching to see if this new House lives up to its promise. Stay tuned. In the meantime, long live free speech!

Mary Ellen Blake


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