Alright, the headline is slightly misleading, since outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, didn’t actually quit the Republican Party, but his surprising resignation, nonchalant attitude at his press conference, and subsequent trashing of fellow Republicans and conservative groups, like Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, seemed to indicate a man who could no longer stand what’s become of his beloved party. The Republicans are in disarray, helped by a huge swing to the far right, allowing fringe elements to infect the party at almost every level, leaving establishment members like Boehner little choice by to take a lifeboat to safety.
Boehner isn’t the first high-profile Republican to essentially jump ship in recent years. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell–a lifelong Republican–famously endorsed President Obama not once, but twice, and chastises his party (he still considers himself a Republican) often on television. Longtime Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switched parties not long after Obama’s election, and others are sure to follow. Not all will take the same or similar routes pursued by moderates like Powell or Specter, but Boehner is not the first and nor will he be the last big Republican name to call it a day.
The GOP is becoming an unhinged mess, with political neophytes like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina leading the presidential race, while former sure thing establishment candidates like Jeb Bush continue to see their support erode. The establishment is looked at as weak, ineffective against the evils of President Obama, and corrupt. Boehner was backed into a corner not simply due to his inability to control the Republican Conference in the House, but also due to Boehner’s inability to control the entire government. Some Republicans are accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, of essentially the same thing and are now calling for his ouster.
Look, pushing Boehner out the door and now calling on McConnell to exit the same way is likely to backfire. Republicans of all stripes are gunning for leadership positions in the House, and if McConnell leaves, the same will happen in the Senate, thus creating a mess far worse than currently exists in Congress. The inmates may not end up running the asylum if current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, is elected speaker, but any establishment elected to leadership will likely meet similar resistance from the fringe that sunk Boehner.
It’s fairly simple, and it’s rooted in the Constitution, along with the rules of Congress (especially those in the Senate). The House can pass a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act as often as it wants, but without 60 votes in the Senate, cloture cannot be reached, thus preventing the bill from coming up for a floor vote. Even if the Senate managed to pass a House bill repealing “Obamacare,” President Obama would veto it immediately, thus requiring a two-thirds majority in BOTH chambers to override the veto. Conservatives like to claim superiority on understanding all things American, but unfortunately, they don’t understand our system of government. When they don’t get their way, they bash the system, call for heads to roll, or accuse the Supreme Court of “judicial tyranny” for doing its job, and then fail to grasp the implications of Supreme Court decisions. What they need is a civics class and Xanax.
In an effort to stay relevant in a country increasingly diverse, and less prone to voting for old, rich, stodgy white men, the GOP made its bed with the “stop Obama at all costs” party, or the Tea Party. The story is well known, but it’s important to note than in cobbling together a coalition big enough to control Congress, the GOP may be digging its own grave. Instead of looking toward a future where the United States continues to grow more diverse, and accepting, they retreated into the fringe elements, pushing offensive views, hackneyed ideas that feel like leftovers from the George W. Bush administration, coupled with nativism. Nowhere do we hear discussion about climate change (something a majority of Republicans agree is real and happening), sensible immigration reform, a tax plan that doesn’t involve drastically cutting taxes for the wealthy, student loan reform, equal rights for gay, lesbian, and transgendered Americans, or a litany of issues that most sensible Americans agree are important for the next president to tackle.
Instead we hear wildly offensive conspiracies about illegal immigrants taking our jobs, raping our women, and bringing copious amounts of drugs over the border. We hear casual and blunt discussions of starting additional wars in the Middle East–namely with Iran–without any consideration of the blood and treasure we already so dearly lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. We hear that gay marriage is an attack on religious liberty, despite the fact that while the state cannot prohibit the practice of one’s religion thanks to the First Amendment, the 14th Amendment makes pretty clear that all must be treated equally under the law. We hear talk about repealing a law that’s brought health insurance for the first time to millions of previously uninsured Americans, without a clear idea of how those individuals will keep or get health care coverage if and when ACA is fully repealed.
These aren’t the ideas of a rational, coherent group of people, but instead sound like words coming from a mind ravaged by encephalitic swelling of the brain. Delusions, conspiracies, and crazed ramblings from a group of individuals that do not want to compromise or work with moderates or progressives under any circumstances. The lunatic fringe.
And we wonder why John Boehner quit?
This isn’t public service, this is self-service without any respect for the millions of Americans hurt by the policies pushed forth by conservatives on the campaign trail or in the halls of Congress. Boehner couldn’t take it anymore and if McConnell follows the same path, the GOP–and perhaps the country–should tremble at the loonies taking over the asylum.