There has been a tsunami of dismay over the re-election of John Boehner as Speaker of the House.
I share some – some – of that dismay. I’d rather have seen someone who could give us, conservatives, a start toward doing something that’s been direly needed this past six years; get conservatives whipped up and ready to come out and volunteer, call, stuff envelopes, and work to get conservatives elected.
We’ll come back to that.
Ralph Benko at Forbes makes the case for Boehner:
Boehner may well be the worst thing to happen to progressives since December 26, 1991… when Gorbachev dissolved the USSR. The left understands this better than does the right.
Boehner’s problem with conservative firebrands seems to derive from the fact that he is all action, no talk. (Or as they would put it in Texas, he’s all cattle, no hat.) Rather than indulging in fierce rhetoric Boehner has parlayed into big wins a small stake and an impossibly weak political hand — a narrow and fractious Republican majority in one of three branches (with a “fourth estate,” the media, largely hostile to conservatives).
My torch-and-pitchfork wielding colleagues aren’t getting how deeply conservative is John Boehner. They are looking for Genghis John while what’s in front of them is Baby Face Boehner. Lethal to liberals, just not showy.
It is time to see Boehner as the conservative he is.
Read Benko’s case, and either be convinced, or not.
I’m of a couple of minds about this:
A Mechanic Versus A Leader: The Speaker of the House, aside from actually setting the House’s agenda, is in charge of seeing to all of the mechanical and procedural details involved in passing (or blocking!) legislation.
And for all of his orange-tanning, crying and occasional cave-ins (strategic?) to the Administration, Boehner certainly has been that. Benko certainly spells out that case well.
But the tsunami of conservatives who crashed the Capitol switchboard yesterday wanted a symbol installed, a message sent.
They wanted someone like that other great partisan firebrand Speaker, who inspired so many to get off the fence and leap into action…
…wait. Who was the last Speaker of the House to take on a partisan leadership role? I mean, yeah, Pelosi. OK – when was the last successful one?
I get it. Conservatives want a win. They crave some sign that the momentum they picked up last November is still moving along. Believe me, I understand.
So who was the conservative firebrand leader in the House who heard that call, and stepped up to be carried to the rostrum on the base’s rhetorical shoulders?
At the last minute?
What does that tell you?
The Speaker’s job is not to lead the base. The Speaker’s job is to lead the caucus (and, incidentally, the House).
Will Boehner do the job well? Well, after one whopping day as Speaker of the House in a Republican, as opposed to divided Congress, it’s hard to tell.
Wait – you didn’t like his approach in November and September? When Boehner was speaker of a House that was fighting a defensive battle against a Democrat President and Senate? It was a different Congress.
Make no mistake – if Congress doesn’t make some conservative hay this session, it’ll be high time to primary the hell out of people. But change in Washington happens lamentably slowly.
And that, unfortunately, is the problem.
Glass Jaws: The cataclysm of conservative disgust was overwhelming, yesterday.
Now, let’s do a reality check.
Yes, the new, Republican-controlled Congress is one day old. And the Speaker race was decided in the most fractious election in over 100 years – I think Boehner got the message – and if he didn’t, he’ll be returning to the Minority soon.
But this isn’t about Congress. This is about conservative voters.
Somewhere along the way, a huge number of conservatives started to believe that government, policy and politics were all about single, cataclysmic, litmus-test-to-end-all-litmus-test votes; votes that, if won, would lead to political nirvana, and if lost, lead to forty years in the desert.
This was not that vote.
A vote on defunding Obamacare, or rejecting Obama’s appellate justices, will be that vote.
I’m not sure who to blame for this; perhaps after decades of framing most issues as black and white choices, conservative alt media is reaping the blowback. Perhaps all the time and effort the Ron Paul and Tea Party movements spent on imbuing their followers with a messianic sense that all things lead either to death or glory is coming back to haunt us.
I don’t know.
But politics – hell, all of life – is more like boxing than wrestling. Wrestling is all about trying to score the coup de main inside a few minutes – the pin, the catastrophic hold, the big win.
But in boxing, as in politics, as in life, for the vast majority of the world in the vast majority of bouts, it’s about taking punches. Over and over and over and over and over. And maybe landing a few, almost never knockouts. And being the last man standing – not in three minutes, but after fifteen three-minute rounds.
Boehner? Love him or hate him, this was just one punch. Shake it off.