Boehner’s resignation makes a bad situation worse

The sudden resignation of John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives has thrown the political situation within the Republican party, already roiled by the tumultuous primary race, into a deeper state of uncertainty and I predict that it will make a bad situation even worse in the long run (long in this sense being a few months), though it may be able to ease the immediate situation.

But change can bring a sense of hope, especially when the situation before the change occurred was grim. Some observers see Boehner’s exit as portending well for the future. He had been having a contention relationship with the 30-40 members of his own party who formed the so-called Freedom Caucus (the hyper-patriotic name itself suggesting that these people are crazies) over how to deal with president Obama and the Democrats in Congress, and hope has been expressed that a new Speaker might be able to smooth things over.

This is a pipe dream. The basic problem is that there was nothing in terms of policy that Boehner disagreed with from the Freedom Caucus. It was almost entirely based on tactics. The only difference was on whether the party should adopt a scorched Earth policy and completely gum up the workings of the government over issues such as defunding Planned Parenthood, stopping the Iran deal, raising the debt ceiling, cutting the federal budget even more, repealing Obamacare, and a whole host of other issues, even to the extent of shutting down the government. In fact, their goal is to pretty much eliminate government altogether so shutting it down temporarily was seen as actually a good thing, not just a necessary evil. Boehner, on the other hand, seemed to think that a basic responsibility of being in elected office was to keep the wheels of government turning even while seeking change. Hostage taking seemed distasteful to him.

The immediate issue was the need for a funding bill when the current authorization ends on September 30th. The Freedom Caucus wanted to eliminate all funding for PP from that bill, something that would not pass the Senate and even if it did would be vetoed by the president, thus shutting down the government. The Freedom Caucus threatened a revolt against Boehner if he did not include the defunding and Boehner seems to have made a deal with them that by saying he would resign on October 30, they would not oppose a so-called ‘clean’ spending bill to pass next week, because if the entire Freedom Caucus voted against it, it would need some Democrats to pass it since it would need at least 218 voting in favor and the current party split is 246-188. Having to depend upon Democrats to pass a Republican bill was seen as politically undesirable.

But it is expected that the spending bill will only fund the government through December because that is the new normalcy, lurching from one short-term fix to the next, so we will have another shutdown threat in December. The only difference will be a new Speaker who will be in the same boat as Boehner, forced to choose between governing and capitulating to the Freedom Caucus. Boehner will probably be enjoying the sight from the sidelines as he contemplates calmly raking in millions of dollars as a lobbyist.

Boehner’s allies are lashing out at the Freedom Caucus for putting the party through this wringer and threatening to institute new rules that would prevent what they see as an ultra-minority from dictating terms. Party establishment politicians such as Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, and Peter King are lamenting Boehner’s departure and warning that this kind of ultimatum politics is going to hurt the party.

While the party ‘extremists’ (remember that label only applies to their tactics since everyone pretty much agrees on ideology) are gleeful over Boehner’s ouster and now are setting their sights on their other perceived enemy, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. John McCain tries to play the peacemaker role.

“Let’s stop fighting with each other,” the former presidential candidate and now symbol of mainstream Republicanism said during a visit to a conservative gathering Friday. “Let’s sit down together and work out our differences with a common agenda to elect the next president of the United States, keep our majorities in the House and Senate, and put the brakes on this internecine strife.”

But if I were the party establishment, I would pin the blame for this turmoil right on McCain. It was his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate in 2008 that set the stage for this development. She gave the crazies a loud voice right at the top level of the party and fired them up and continues to do so. They have not looked back since, especially since so many of them were elected to Congress in the Republican wave of 2010.

These new extremist house members were feted as some kind of revolutionaries, nurtured by a younger but still establishment leadership that gave itself the grandiose nickname of The Young Guns, and hailed in the conservative media as what the country needed to make it great again and it has clearly gone to their heads and given them delusions of grandeur. They remind me of nothing so much as the children of indulgent parents who are told from infancy that they are brilliant and destined for greatness. Such people become thoroughly spoiled brats. (Oddly enough, one of them is actually called David Brat, and he defeated one of the Young Guns Eric Cantor in the 2014 primary.) These congresspersons have now entered adolescence where their sense of entitlement is strong and they throw a tantrum if they don’t get their way every time, to the horror of their frazzled parents who wonder where they went wrong.

Boehner’s resignation changes nothing in this dynamic. It just places a new person in the hot seat and that person is likely to be another Young Gun Kevin McCarthy, since the third of the Young Guns Paul Ryan has said he is not interested in the post and seems to want to keep a low profile. If that person believes in basic governance, as seems likely since the Freedom Caucus says they are not going to nominate someone from their own ranks to run for speaker, then this drama will play out again in December, where the Christmas season will complicate matters even more when the War on Christmas can be added to the list of grievances that pander to the extremists among the party faithful.

The Freedom Caucus has tasted blood. The crazies have bagged one victim in Boehner. They will be even more emboldened now and can continue to have visibility without responsibility, And those running for the party’s presidential nomination are well aware that if they run afoul of these crazies, they will be loudly hounded for doing so.

This is no way to run a country.


  1. Who Cares says

    Second paragraph you wrote Freedom Cause instead of Freedom Caucus.

    Still you are right on the people in it not being fit for governing a nation the size and diversity of the U.S.. That requires the willingness to negotiate and compromise not the “Our way or get the fuck out of our way”-attitude they have.

    Further you are thinking too far ahead with December. Try October when the debt ceiling must be raised since the treasury is running out of time on the accounting tricks it has employed since March/April to keep the debt frozen at just below the ceiling.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … McCain. It was his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate in 2008 that set the stage …

    It goes back further than that. I would ultimately point the finger at Richard Nixon and his Southern Strategy™, but a bit closer to hand we have Karl Rove’s masterminding of the 2000 election, in which he finagled George “Dubious” Bush to a (rigged) photo finish the only way possible, by activating the Hateful Goober vote through promoting tribal emotionalism over policy and character.

  3. raven says

    1. Look on the bright side. With a nonfunctioning federal government, we can’t have wars any more. OTOH, we can’t fight terrorism either and US based terrorist attacks will increase, most of the from the right wing as it is now.

    2. You can’t blame the nihilistic America haters of the Tea Party. They are what they are. Dogs gotta be dogs. The fault is that of the voters who elected them.

    3. The last government shutdown cost the US $24 billion and was inconvenient for a lot of people. OTOH, it didn’t dent the Tea Party which did very well in the 2014 elections.

    From their viewpoint, a shutdown is a great idea. I’m sure they learned the lesson and have no problem doing it again.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Here’s a nice summary of recent US hardcore right history, taking it back to the Ivy League anti-intellectualism of William F. Buckley.

  5. Chiroptera says

    Pierce R. Butler, #4:

    Yeah, and the vicious rightwingers were already crawling out of the basement by the time of Bill Clinton’s administration. All the foam-flecked hatred and conspiracy theory panic during Obama’s terms are a continuation of the ugliness that was already in full visibility in the 90s.

    In fact, seeing how Clinton was a pretty safe establishment Democrat and certainly didn’t do anything contrary to the interests of the elite, I’ve always felt that the Whitewater investigation and the impeachment hearings was the first time the Republican establishment lost control of their attack dogs.

  6. raven says

    It does look like Boehner just got tired of the crazies and wanted out. His resignation doesn’t fix anything and might make it worse.

    This makes me a bit nervous. As a Boomer, I’m eligible for Social Security and Medicare in a few years. If the feds go down, there goes those benefits that I’ve paid into my whole life. Oh well, same thing will happen to the Tea Party voters, many of whom are old and being kept alive by SS and Medicare.

  7. raven says

    The US right wing lunatic fringe goes back long before I was born. The Red Scare of the 1940’s and 1950’s. The John Birch society which is still around. The Boogeyman back then was racial integration and commies. Today it is racial integration, women, atheists, Moslems, and…commies.

  8. Who Cares says

    @Pierce R. Butler(#4):
    You can go back even further.
    Try the Movement Conservatives under Buckley. They really hated the New Deal but understood that scrapping it would be impossible if they stuck to the facts and the benefits it brought to the average American (ref: God and Man at Yale by Buckley).
    So they had to switch to fear, uncertainty and doubt to undermine the facts.
    Basically scare the hell out of people, then promise that their solution will save them, when it doesn’t blame the current bogeyman, rinse and repeat while you pull them further into how you want them to view the world.
    Nixon did all that but always making sure he’d never specifically target a group (it was always them or they or something like that) so he could make it easier switching to a new victim group.

    The current result of that strategy is best exemplified by the quote from one of the people around Bush: ““That’s not the way the world really works anymore, when we act, we create our own reality.”
    And that is a quote that should have scared the hell out of anyone & everyone since that is the reasoning of a True Believer. Which is not someone you want to be either president to a country (let alone one with nukes) or advice said president.

    That is why how bad this might sound it would be best if Trump would be nominee of the republican party seeing that the rest of the candidates are either True Believers or think that the only way to get to be the nominee is suborn the needs of the US to the wants of the True Believers. The guy might be an egomaniacal narcissist but he is also an good opportunist and you can’t be a good opportunist if you deny reality.

  9. StevoR says

    @ ^ Kimpatsu1 : Did not know that -- thanks.

    Boehner was really pretty useless and ineffective -cpuldn’;t stop the previous shutdowns or reign intheRepub crazies. The alternatives do look either equally useless or worse though.

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The RINO cannot hear the far far rightwinger;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Tea party anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-lusting simpletons tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The compromising wisdom of moderation is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with elephants body and the head of a man,
    A hairdo blank and voice ranting as an drunken bums,
    Is bellowing its misogynist highs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant media birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Washington to be born?

    Moified from & wIth apologies to Yeat’s ‘The Second Coming ‘ poem.

    Source :

    That poem seems apt these days don’t it?

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