Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is still leading in most national polls, prompting Republican politicians to brace for another four years of opposition party control of the White House. Rather than crafting new policy proposals to appeal to more voters—or to create more effective ways of compromising with the other side—Republican leaders appear ready to continue with more of the same inaction that has characterized our government for the past several years.
Many Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives have signaled—or outright declared—that they are prepared to hunker down and prevent Clinton from accomplishing anything in her time in office if she is elected. This is essentially a continuation of the current Republican strategy of attempting to undermine President Barack Obama and any major piece of legislation he advocates. The level of partisan backlash a Clinton administration may experience, however, could be unprecedented in nature.
The last six years of Obama’s presidency were filled with partisan gridlock and turmoil. Aside from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s highly criticized filibusters, the government maintained its functionality. That may not be the case in a Clinton administration.
One of the most important constitutional responsibilities of a president is to appoint new Supreme Court judges. After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the role has been left unfilled as Senate Republicans have refused to even consider Obama’s moderate nominee Judge Merrick Garland.
The highest court in America has been hindered by an even number of justices for eight months due to the Republican claim that a Supreme Court position should not be filled in the last year of a president’s term. This unprecedented inaction by the Senate may go on even longer under a Clinton administration.
When Arizona Sen. John McCain was asked about the prospect of a Clinton Supreme Court nominee, he responded, “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” according to The Washington Post. McCain’s office later retracted this statement, but McCain’s words are a frightening example of how party loyalty has overshadowed democratic duty.
In the House of Representatives—where Republicans are likely to keep a majority—more gridlock and partisan chaos seem likely to develop. Utah Congressman and head of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz said he is willing to use his powerful position to investigate Clinton’s past for years to come.
This level of partisan backlash is unsustainable if we wish to maintain a functioning system of government. Disagreements on issues of policy are natural in a democracy, but what the Republican Party has done—and is preparing to do—goes well beyond policy disagreements. Their actions, whether they realize it or not, are hurting the nation as a whole. It took Congress seven months just to approve funding to fight Zika virus because of Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.
I do not want to suggest that Republicans are the sole reason for these partisan divides, as politicians from across the board often put party interests over the good of the country. Nonetheless, it is incredibly disturbing to witness nearly an entire political party deliberately hindering the government's ability to function just to damage the opposing party.
If this partisan divide is not healed, we may be heading toward a constitutional crisis.