One year ago on Round and Square (26 June 2012)—Fieldnotes From History: Provincial Elections (h)
Two years ago on Round and Square (26 June 2011)—Hurtin' Country: Too Cold At Home
|[a] (Half of) a Third RF|
I suspect that you might be thinking something along these lines: "Yes, I understand that the Speakership is important in American politics, and even that the Speaker is second in line to be president, right after the vice-president; I get it...still, couldn't you start with a list of, say, the Five Presidents? Would that be too much to ask?"
|[a] Numero Uno RF|
Yes, yes it would. Four of them are already carved in stone. Why would we start there?
"Ok," you say. "But there were a bunch of Speakers (of the House). How could you begin to differentiate; what are your standards?"
That is a far better question, and one that deserves an answer from the Power-of-Five Oracle. The Board of Trustees of Five-Phase (Round and Square) Cosmology has determined, after a careful look at the historical record, that the speakership as we have come to know it is a powerful end-in-itself, rather than one of many baubles in an almost inconceivably fruitful career.
So...Fredrick Muhlenberg and (especially) Henry Clay will surely be recognized somewhere in the cosmology, but the idea was to look at the "lifers"—those whose very sweat, anger, and being was tied to the House of Representatives itself. This is the kind of leader who wants nothing more than to run for re-election every two years and steer the reins (reigns?) of one of the key institutions in American life.
This is Dennis Hastsert (and countless other leaders since Reconstruction).
And yet...and yet...Muhlenberg and Clay are so vital to an understanding of the position that they are—somehow, some way—on the list anyway.
Now that is cosmology. Even the RSQ Board cannot outvote the fierce power of Five-ness.
|[b] Numero Longest RF|
Let us not forget another important fact. The Speakership is hardly an insignificant little position tucked away among bigger glories such as senatorial election or a cabinet position. S/he is right there in the mix of presidential succession. Sure, it has never happened, but s/he has a lot better shot than the President pro tempore of the Senate (and that was one of the dumbest ideas ever thought up by our founding pundits).
So the decree from on-high is that the Five Speakers must have changed the institution or negotiated profoundly difficult political waters. Yes, I realize that in pulling back the curtain from the great-and-all-powerful decision making, I am risking something. On the other hand, anyone who would be reading Round and Square in the first place will already have enough patience to understand that prescription "irony lenses" are necessary to get very far.
And, as a bow to historical perspective and the exasperating meanness of American politics today, the list ends at 2000. At some point, say, in 2098, Round and Square will run its list of "Twenty-First Century Speakers of the House." For now, all there is...is a photo acknowledging enormous, gendered, historical change. We live in murky times, and even cosmologists are affected.
|[c] Big-time RF|
So...these are the Five Speakers (of the US House of Representatives).
Together, they form the category "Speaker of the House."
Remember, if you think that this is a "top-five" list, such as you read on Yahoo, you are very badly mistaken. If that doesn't make sense...go back and read the introduction and the links!
The Five Speakers*
Joseph Gurney Cannon
* Before 2000 CE
** The RSQ board will occasionally make an ironic sort of "Honorable Mention" observation that speaks to our lives today. This one—in all of its predictable partisanship and stunning compromise—is the first in an occasional set of additions. Imagine, at least in one way—fierce partisanship meets compromise—that you could think of them as one: Tip O'Gingrich.
"We" are not going to do this often, but here is a little explanatory micro-essay. Muhlenberg was first (and saved the country from having impossibly long Germanic sentences in its official documents—this is apocryphal, but fascinating). Clay was sooooo much more than a Speaker, but he shaped the Speakership in profound ways. Cannon was the biggest. Rayburn was also the biggest. Albert saved the nation in a time of peril.
|[d] Too historic for partisanship RF|