“A lame-duck session of Congress in the United States occurs whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected, but before the successor’s term begins. The expression is now used not only for a special session called after a sine die adjournment, but also for any portion of a regular session that falls after an election.” Wikipedia
I know, it’s hard to trust much of anything Wikipedia says, but I think in this case, they’ve done an adequate job.
The fact is, there’s been a tendency of late, to use terms to talk about situations, circumstances and other things, in ways that are definitely not valid.
The idea of a “lame-duck session” is a recent example.
Personally, I would add clarification to that piece of text borrowed from Wikipedia.
I would say that the idea of a lame-duck session isn’t just a congress or other political entity after the election of its successor. In order to be truly lame-duck, the person or group in question, normally must not contain even an incumbent majority. An exception can be made when the balance of power shifts as a result of those formerly elected, being voted out of office.
In other words, first there must have been an election; next with the noted exception given, the people voted for, typically cannot even largely be the same ones who were already in office.
Talking about folks who have been re-elected by and large as lame-duck can only be seen as at least mostly errant.
It may be true that some among their ranks, will no longer have authority after their successors are sworn into office, but that doesn’t mean the group as a whole, won’t have generally the same makeup at the end of that process.
All that having been crunched, there’s another reality. The fact that an election has occurred that places a person or group of folks into a lame-duck state, doesn’t imply that the group still in office has no right or authority to act as they would’ve done before they became so.
It’s fair to argue that the folks coming in, have the right and technically the authority to undo the actions of their predecessors. It’s not fair to assume they’ll necessarily do that. You can equally make the case, that it may not be reasonable for them to do so, even if they vehemently disagree with what was done.
Here’s another interesting consideration. Where the balance of power may shift from one group to another as the result of an election, considering elections are intentionally staggered for many offices, that doesn’t mean that the folks who assume the majority, can be suddenly handed some sort of mandate for change.
It’s absolutely true to say that they’ll have the ability to usher in change that wouldn’t have been possible before their opponent was replaced. It’s not necessarily true that those who put others in office, agree with the changes being implemented. Put simply, just as with most any other position the, person already in authority can be seen to be doing the things the voters put them there to accomplish.
But in all of this, we can be clear on a couple of facts.
The first of these should be patently obvious to even the greenest observer. That would be that proclaiming an existing person or body lame-duck before an election has even occurred, is more than a premature statement. Acting on that belief is nigh unto criminal.
Would you suddenly say you were changing the Speaker of the House before an election was even conducted to determine who was selected for given offices? I would argue that you not only shouldn’t, but can’t do that.
In fact I would go a step further, and say even if it’s clear what’s happening, those winning the day must still wait until the transition has happened, before making any changes to the status quo or expecting them to be made.
This brings me to the second point I wish to reinforce. Being a lame-duck isn’t an excuse not to act.
People are elected to positions in government for a specific amount of time. While they’re in those positions, it’s more or less their duty to accomplish the things for which they believe their constituents elected them, to the best of their ability.
You can argue all you want, that when an election has occurred where a given member of a particular entity has been voted out, their responsibility is at an end. Where you can make that contention, it’s not true.
The person in question may be expected to make an orderly transition possible. That doesn’t mean while they’re still in office, they must cease any and all activity which is counter to that which their replacement might be expected to enact.
If someone does that out of deference, that’s fine. Assuming they must do so though, is a pure flight of fancy.
There have been cases in which people have taken a given course because they believed it was what their opponent who won an election would take. In some measure, I can understand and even respect that fact.
Though that’s true, in more than one instance I can remember, had the person currently in a position of authority, behaved as would’ve been expected for them, their coming replacement would likely still have had the opportunity to act in the same way they would’ve desired their predecessor to, when they got into the position they were selected to fill.
Further, the person still in authority having continued as if they were going to remain in power, might’ve totally changed the outcome, such that the person coming in behind them had either no, or a substantially less significant issue with which to deal.
Yes, you can make the argument that things may also have ended up worse rather than better. Even so, it’s a matter of truth, that the person being shown the door at the appropriate time, was still the one who had a given choice to make. And if they refused to make it in a way consistent with their own policy, where it’s possible things would have come out for the worse, most of the time it’s impossible to know that’s the case.
My main point, though, is this. Calling a person or group lame-duck when an election has yet to occur, or when the balance of power ends up being roughly the same after the election, as before it, is in my view, nothing more than a desperate grab at power the one attempting it, should not receive.
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.