The Regular Order

Author: Gary Hart

In former days, on the rare occasions where protocols of the U.S. Senate were breached in the heat of the moment, for example if Senators engaged in debate without seeking recognition of the chair as rules require, order would be restored by one or more Senators who would address the chair, the presiding president of the Senate at the time, with a command for “regular order.”

Given the chaos now endemic to the current executive branch, remaining statesmen and women should now be heard demanding the “regular order, Mr. President.”

The difficulty is that the current President is not familiar with any regular order in governing.  And this is central to our current historic dilemma.

In our long history America has never before had a president so unfamiliar with the Constitution, the rule of law, checks and balances of the branches of government, the limits on presidential power, the necessary role of diplomacy, and the necessity of democratic allies for our own security and the stability of the world.

For those of us who have spent three years searching for an explanation for repeated incidents of irrationality, reversal of policies just announced, stunning turn over in the White House and executive branch, denigration of allied leaders, and unilateral withdrawal from serious international security, trade, and environmental treaties, it is this repeated ignorant blundering against established governing (and civilizing) norms that offers an explanation.

The only plausible excuse for this unprecedented behavior is total ignorance of the existence of a regular order in democratic governments.  This ignorance may also be augmented with behavior calculated to pander to angers and prejudices of those composing a political “base” that is delighted by an irregular order that they applaud and cheer.

The irregular order is enabled by a very simple human characteristic: hypocrisy.  This characteristic increasingly underlies American politics in this period.  It is simple:  if they do it, it is wrong; if we do it, it is just, right, and fair.

Everyone in America knows, if the events at the center of the impeachment process now had occurred during a Democratic administration, Republicans would be outraged.  When we do it, it is ok; when they do it, it is wrong.

Imagine if Barack Obama had behaved in Ukraine and in many other areas as the incumbent president has done, Republicans would be beside themselves.  Impeachment proceedings would have begun in those circumstances much earlier than is occurring today.

The press and media should be pointing out this hypocrisy on a daily basis, but they have become so inured to Trumpian behavior and Republican complicity that they all seem to throw up their hands.  And the Pelosis and Schiffs are so accustomed to it that they simply roll their eyes.

This double standard would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic.

There is little to no hope for a change in conduct.  It is a little late in life for an aging autocrat to learn civility, decorum, respect for his office, mature behavior by a genuine leader, and a host of other qualities that were missed while growing up.

In the meantime, we Americans will once again muddle through, in this case wholly unnecessarily, until sanity returns.

But while doing so, it is also legitimate for all right-minded citizens to point out and demand an end to partisan hypocrisy and double standards, and to demand return to the “regular order.”


2 Responses to “The Regular Order”

  1. Brian McCarthy Says:


    Perhaps the Senate can outsource the job of Senate President to the recent British House of Commons speaker, John Bercow, MP, known for his commanding tone of voice when calling for “order”. Not that I’d expect he wants the job.

    On a more serious note, the real danger here is not that Trump disregards order, checks and balances, and limits on power. It is that he has got away with doing so to this point and will likely continue to, unless 21 or more GOP senators will vote to remove him from office if impeachment results from the House hearings and high crimes are proven in the following trial. What is the message to future presidents but that they can disregard the rules of law and order at will, and unless the opposing party has 67 senators, there will be no consequences?


  2. Michael Says:

    Considering the outrageous behavior the Republican Party not only tolerate but actively defend at all costs, I don’t see any possibility of a return to the ‘regular order’ until the Republicans are dealt electoral losses so devastating that they are pushed to the edge of extinction. The media should, of course, call out their hypocrisy, but it won’t make any difference to Trump supporters who have been trained to distrust the mainstream media, and on whose allegiance the Republicans have become to depend. The ‘irregular order’ didn’t start with Trump; the Republicans have been abusing their investigatory powers in the congress for years, using those powers exclusively as a tool to bloody the Democrats. Trump is just an extension of that previous outrageous behavior for which winning was everything, no matter the damage to the nation or its institutions. The longer it continues, the further away in time we move from the ‘regular order,’ the less likely it becomes that we will ever return to it.

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