U.S. internal political standoff is already existed for a while - in fact, since last Presidential Elections. Recently, I've seen something like this as a culmination of that partisanship. I just don't have words for this - it was like 9/11.

I was always sure, that there is some unwritten rule in the US - despite any internal contradictions, the fighting isn't done publicly.

Is there precedent for such degree of public political standoff in the U.S.? Maybe I'm mistaking and that "rule" I've heard of, is just something recent, from the late 20th century.

  • 1
    despite any inner contradictions, nothing of it is drawn to the public. Ahem. And there are many other, less dramatic examples (search for "nullification crisis") – SJuan76 Feb 13 '20 at 9:32
  • 7
    That's nothing. In 1804, the Vice President shot the Secretary of the Treasury. – Just Me Feb 13 '20 at 10:49
  • 10
    I think the most interesting part of this question is that the media narrative makes the ripping of a speech comparable to 9/11. – Thomas Koelle Feb 13 '20 at 11:03
  • 5
    How is a politician's ripping a speech comparable to any sort of terrorist attack, let alone the most lethal one in US history? What is the analogous element here? – Obie 2.0 Feb 13 '20 at 11:22
  • 3
    @puppetsock Not just US politics - remember deflategate? – Punintended Feb 13 '20 at 17:24

Theatrical maneuvers are nothing new in politics in the USA. This particular event happened in 1867, in the Arkansas state legislature.


The gentleman took out his pistol and laid it on the desk in front of him so he would not be interrupted. And he gave the following speech.

Mr Speaker, god-damn your soul, for more than thirty minutes I've been trying to get your attention but every time I caught your eye you squirmed like a damn dog with a flea in his ass.

I guess you know who I am Sir. My name is Cassius M. Johnson from Jackson County, Arkansas where a man can't stick his ass out the window and shit without it getting riddled with bullets. Why Sir, I was fourteen years old before I had my first pair of pants and they was of buckskin. But at the age of seventeen Mr Speaker, I had a jock on me the size of a roasting ear and it was the pride of Jackson County. And you propose to change the name of Arkansas. Never, by God Sir, never!

I'm out of order? How can I be out of order when I can piss clear across the Mississippi River?

Where was Andrew Jackson when the battle of New Orleans was fought? He was right thar Sir, up to his ass in blood. And you change the name of Arkansas? Never, when I can defend her.

You may shit on the grave of George Washington. Piss on the monument of Thomas Jefferson. You may desecrate the sacred remains of the immortal General Robert E. Lee. You may rape the Goddess of Liberty and wipe your ass on the Stars and Stripes. And your crime, your crime Sir will no more compare to this hellish design than the glow of a lightning-bug's ass to the glare of the noon days sun. And you propose to change the name of Arkansas. Never, by God Sir, never!

You may compare the lily of the valley to the glorious sunflower. Or the sun-kissed peaks of the highest mountains to the smokin' turd of a dunghill. Or the classic strains of Mozart to the fart of a Mexican burrow. You may compare the puny penis of a Peruvian prince to the ponderous buttocks of the Roman gladiator. But change the name of Arkansas? Never, by God Sir, never!

  • It's a great story, but it mainly involves idiosyncratic individuals, rather than being a systemic comparison of a more generalized US political standoff. – agc Feb 14 '20 at 15:55
  • My Man Cassius brought a pistol to the session and put it on his desk while he talked. Pelosi ripped up some paper. You are right. There is no comparison. Anyway, the question is closed. – puppetsock Feb 14 '20 at 15:57
  • Again, it's a great and entertaining story, but a state-centric dispute, however passionate, about naming Arkansas is not relevant to, (and indeed distracts from), a Q. regarding a more general national division. – agc Feb 14 '20 at 16:36

Are we forgetting the Caning of Charles Sumner in 1856? Senator Sumner (R-Mass.) was assaulted on the Senate Floor by Representative Preston Brooks (D-SC) while co-conspires Rep. Laurence M. Keitt (D-SC) and Rep. Henry A. Edmundson (D-VA) blocked other Senators from assisting in stopping the fight. Brooks' attack was in retaliation for a speech in which Sumner accused Senator (and Brooks' cousin) Andrew Butler (D-SC) of wishing to keep slaves in order to sexually force himself on slave women (this was not the first time such charges had been lobbed in the Abolition debate, and Pro-Slavery politicians would attack the sexual morals of Abolitionist in kind.).

Sumner was temporarily blinded during the attack and for the remainder of his life suffered from pain and emotional damage from the attack that today is known consists with traumatic brain injury and PTSD. In fact, during the attack, many Senators pleaded with Brooks to not kill Sumner, and the attack stained the floor of the Senate with Sumner's blood.

As it was an election year, and occured during the height of the Bleeding Kansas crisis, Republicans used the attack slogan "Bleeding Kansas and Bleeding Sumner" to call out the democrats barbarism and while Brooks challenged two more Republicans to duels, one accepted, but chose weapon of Rifles and the battleground of "the Canada side of Niagara Falls" and another refused on the grounds that such an act was barbaric and elected to highlight Brooks' further barbarism (Note: At the time, Dueling was outlawed in the United States, so the later politician was refusing on the grounds that he would not perform an illegal act... the former was a noted crack shot and knew that under Canadian law at the time, dueling was perfectly legal... Brooks did not follow through on the acceptence, citing dangers of traveling through the Northern States... but likely realized the person who challenged him was probably going to kill him and get away with it.).

For some time after the attack, several members of Congress carried weapons on them out of an abundence of caution. That said, physical attacks between U.S. legislators is very very rare, so it stands out. This is not to say that Nancy Pelosi's ripping of the State of the Union is justified, but that she merely qualifies for the "Not as Big of a Jerk as you could have been" Award.


That is nothing compared to what has happened between parties in the past. Just look back to the Obama years and efforts to block him. Ripping up a copy of a speech is nothing compared to working to prevent someone from getting reelected by blocking everything they want to do.


But that’s Tuesday. Right now, the tone is a lot different — with Republicans pledging to embrace an agenda for the next two years that sounds a lot like their agenda for the past two: Block Obama at all costs.

Here’s John Boehner, the likely speaker if Republicans take the House, offering his plans for Obama’s agenda: “We're going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell summed up his plan to National Journal: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday night bragged about blocking President Barack Obama’s attempt to fill federal judicial vacancies for two years. Then, he laughed about it as he discussed the Republican Party’s effort to stack the courts with conservative judges under President Donald Trump.

“I was shocked that former President Obama left so many vacancies and didn’t try to fill those positions,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said to McConnell.

Obama didn’t leave those vacancies so much as he was blocked from filling them by a GOP-controlled Senate led by McConnell ― something the majority leader was quick to point out.

“I’ll tell you why,” he said. “I was in charge of what we did the last two years of the Obama administration.”

  • 2
    Really, really bad examples. Was President Obama obligated to nominate judges the Republican Senate wanted? Of course not. Ergo, it follows that the Republican Senate was not obligated to confirm the judges President Obama nominated. Note that McConnell did not publicly rip up any of the papers that transmitted President Obama's nominations to the Senate. Refusing to confirm a nomination over political differences is a far cry from a public display of disrespect bordering on a three-year-old's temper tantrum. Or a duel with pistols where one duelist is killed. – Just Me Feb 13 '20 at 17:46
  • 2
    @JustMe They are responsible to advise and consent on all presidential appointments and having a policy to block all of them goes in the face of that duty. The same can be said for working on policies that the president wants to implement. – Joe W Feb 13 '20 at 17:52
  • 2
    As someone once said, elections have consequences. – Just Me Feb 13 '20 at 17:53
  • 2
    So you're saying President Obama failed to do his job because he didn't "work with" the Senate to nominate judges that they would confirm? I agree. – Just Me Feb 13 '20 at 18:10
  • 3
    @JustMe Refusing consent for a judge would mean the Senate was doing their job. Refusing consent for a judge simply because of who nominated them rather than the judge's actual qualifications and fitness for the office can be considered to be doing their job badly, but it's still doing it. Not even holding a vote is explicitly not doing the job. The requirement for the Senate is to provide "advice and consent". Refusing consent is a valid option; refusing to reply at all is not. My rule on this is consistent: If you act you're doing the job, even if poorly. If you don't act, you're not. – Bobson Feb 13 '20 at 18:55

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .