After 22 days and four attempts, the U.S. Congress’ lower chamber has finally selected a new speaker of the House. Republican Mike Johnson, a four-term lawmaker from Louisiana and constitutional lawyer, will wield the gavel.

Since Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz’s controversial decision to file a motion to oust former House speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republicans have been gripped with infighting and indecision. This has led to a Congress seemingly void of leadership, direction, and focus. All during a time when global crises are spiralling out of control, leaving the world superpower’s response to mounting death tolls from the Israel-Hamas war both muted and stunted.

In a recent prime-time Oval Office address on Oct. 20, only his second as U.S. president, Joe Biden did not waver when he said, "We’re facing an inflection point in history – one of those moments where the decisions we make today are going to determine the future for decades to come." While tying America’s national security to the unravelling situation in Gaza, as well as Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the nation’s commander-in-chief laid out an urgency for the U.S. to act.

Bold and daring, it was a speech that offered all the hallmarks of a wartime president – bracing a weary nation, positioning military assets and troops near the frontlines, and assuaging allies while warning enemies. All the while, Congress – specifically, the House of Representatives – was missing in action!

As Israel quickly became engulfed in a war against Hamas, the Biden administration was left reeling over how to respond and what aid to offer America’s stalwart ally in the Middle East. According to a recent CNN report, the administration had been looking at accessing US$100 million through the presidential drawdown authority to rapidly dispatch weapons and aid. However, congressional approval was needed to provide more funds, which could not happen without a speaker in place to move the legislation.

The hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol saw the failed candidacies of several would-be House speakers as the Republican conference was unable to unify behind any of its members. Moderate and MAGA conservatives that sought the gavel all met the same grim fate, the most notable being Congressman Jim Jordan. Once described by his fellow conservative colleague and former House speaker John Boehner as a “legislative terrorist,” the Ohio congressman aggressively sought the speaker's gavel and was endorsed by none other than former U.S. president Donald Trump.

Jordan’s brief candidacy was marked by tactics described as “bullying,” according to members within the GOP caucus.

These traits should be the antithesis of those held by the House speaker. Jordan, who infamously refused to comply with a congressional subpoena into the investigation surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection,seemed to be using the strategies he had employed over a 16-year political career to secure the most powerful job in Congress. Alas, the detractors in his caucus held firm, offering a stinging rebuke over three rounds of voting.

Now, speaker-elect Johnson, an election denier and ardent Trump supporter, must find a way to unify his caucus and the House of Representatives. Awaiting him is no shortage of pressing legislative challenges,beginning with the US$105-billion aid request to provide support to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the U.S. southern border. That urgent request has languished for days despite requiring immediate action.

Additionally, a continuing resolution that prevented a government shutdown just weeks ago, is ending soon and will require speaker-elect Johnson to develop a budget that can pass muster with a narrowly controlled majority.


Still, the weeks of paralysis in Congress cannot erase the rising uncertainty at home and abroad, an uncertainty that has pushed a polarized nation to its breaking point. The incessant face-offs coursing through Congress are spilling over in American streets. Protests and demonstrations are flaring up across the nation, especially on college campuses. Just recently, a Palestinian-American mother and her six-year-old son were violently attacked in Plainfield Township, Ill. The woman was hospitalized while her son died as a result of his injuries, and the Department of Justice is investigating the attack as a hate crime.

Geopolitical crises of the past saw politics stop at the water's edge, with U.S. politicians often presenting a united front to other nations. But now, politicians use the fear and tumult of such crises to score political points. Following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas militants, Trump falsely claimed that the recent transfer of $6 billion to Iran in exchange for freed U.S. prisoners was ultimately used to finance the terror attack. Both sides have pointed fingers and the political schism has only widened.

These deep divisions also plague the Senate at a time of great urgency. Republican senators are pushing back on fast-tracking the confirmation of President Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew. Additionally, Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville continues his ideological war with the Defense Department. His steadfast refusal to lift holds he has placed on hundreds of military promotions at a time of heightened state of alert may jeopardize America’s military readiness.

Perhaps even more stunning was Sen. Tim Scott’s decision to join a chorus of Republicans accusing President Biden of complicity following Hamas’ attack on Israel. Scott accused the president of having “blood on his hands,” after making “foolish policy choices that have undermined (the U.S.) and our allies.”

The Israel-Hamas war has seen many innocent people killed, including Americans and Canadians.

America’s closest partner in the Middle East under siege while paralysis and infighting leaves the U.S. distracted. At every turn, key machinations of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus are missing integral components needed to respond to rapidly evolving situations. Even worse, those that swore an oath to protect the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic, seem to lack the urgency and will to meet the moment.

U.S. politics are quickly becoming untenable. Polarization appears to have reached its zenith as bipartisanship and across-the-aisle unity falls to its nadir. The first branch of government, as outlined inthe Constitution, erected on the platform of freedom and independence, is slowly giving way to inertia.

Former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt once stated, "In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike."

Although these words were uttered more than eight decades ago, they remain prescient today. The fire of war burns hot across the globe. Yet, the full weight and might of America, once a vibrant democracy eschewing the shackles of subjection, is being diminished. Even as its allies burn.