Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Boehner resigns...and that's not a good thing

"Usually the only orange empty head that is tossed out at the end of October is a jack-o'-lantern."

So quipped a friend of mine. He was, of course, referring to the resignation of John Boehner as Speaker of the House, effective at the end of October. It brought jubilation from each end of the political spectrum. It is misplaced, I believe. Grievously misplaced.

I have not been Speaker Boehner's biggest fan. I've sharply disagreed with him on most issues, found him reminiscent of an arrogant high school quarterback, and often referred to him as the "Hell no you can't!" to Obama's "Yes we can." Despite our differences, this resignation is really not a good thing for anyone who shares in the ideology that brought us the Affordable Care Act and measured, reasoned foreign policy. Why is that? I can best sum it up with one comment I saw online:

"Liberals everywhere mourn his fall from power, he was their kind of 'conservative.' "

Comma splice aside, the subtext of the comment is of course that John Boehner was no true conservative. Let's parse that for a moment. Boehner is someone who allowed 60 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Since Boehner took over the Speaker's role in 2010, House Republicans have threatened to shut down the federal government 12 times. Speaker Boehner has a voting record that is historically anti-environment, anti-education, and anti-choice to name just a few.

This is a man not considered conservative enough by many factions of the GOP.

In truth this schism in the Republican Party has been at least 15 years in the making. George W. Bush rode to power in 2000 by (among other things) following Karl Rove's plan of engaging the long untapped demographic of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians in the United States. Since Bush's departure from office, many of these said same voters have adopted the Tea Party as their political home. This has created a considerable shift in the flavor of the Republican Party as David Brooks pointed out on NPR last Friday.

Brooks called Boehner a "country club Republican." It's a stereotype of course, the affluent and WASPy character you might greatly disagree with but at least they know enough about politics to recognize that compromise is an accepted necessity. The Tea Party has brought a new breed of Republican to the fore, one Brooks called the "Duck Dynasty Republican." A quick Google search will show you any number of controversial statements made by the cast members of that aforementioned television show. These are the types of comments that appeal to the baser members of the population, those who only react and refuse to compromise. How can you compromise when your ideology is rooted in fundamentalism? These are the same forces behind both Ted Cruz in the past and Donald Trump today.

Boehner knew this. He said as much in an interview this week, calling other unnamed conservatives "false prophets" who are "spreading noise" rather than actually achieving anything concrete. This refusal to compromise is actually far more threatening than mere noise, though. As Greg Sargent points out in The Washington Post, the Tea Party "failed to block Obama’s transformation of the country; that must be because they didn’t even try, so they must be complicit. But this failure, too, is structural. Republicans don’t have the votes to surmount Dem filibusters or Obama vetoes." Yet the far right wing believes that this can be overcome by pure will to power and any Republican leadership that thinks otherwise is treasonous...yet more indication of compromise as anathema.

Blood's already in the water. The successor as Speaker will either signify a continuance of conventional conservatism or the rise of the Tea Party to control of the House. In the case of the former, that means more GOP in-fighting and a hamstrung Speaker. In the case of the latter, that means gridlock and senseless opposition on a level we have seldom seen before.

And that should scare you.

The current heir apparent is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. He is already taking hits from the far right. Conservative pundit Erick Erickson posted this at Red State:

“McCarthy is not very conservative...If House Republicans wish to not find common ground with the conservatives who make up their base, McCarthy is a fine pick. But if they want to get everyone together as we head into November and then into 2016, they should consider someone else. McCarthy is a non-starter for conservatives and the bad blood will continue.”

Conservative talk show host Mark Levin simply called him "dimwitted."

To me it seems clear. There is more gridlock and turmoil on the horizon and a widening of the already deep divide in our nation.

I never thought I would actually miss John Boehner.

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