Boehner jumps sinking Republican ship, drags democracy down also
Congress has reached mythic levels of non-productivity in the past few years. The 112th Congress was the most unproductive in history, at least until the 113th showed up. Things were looking a bit brighter for this year, but with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)’s announcement that he is resigning from the speakership and his seat in the House of Representatives — effective Oct. 30, according to USA Today — the future is looking stormy.
Boehner's resignation is a victory for right-wing conservatives, signaling the continued radicalization of the Republican Party. This radicalization is a threat to Congress’s ability to function, both in its practical role as the United States' legislative branch of government and its ideological role as a representative body.
The straw that broke Boehner’s back on Friday was the imminent government shutdown. Yes, another shutdown. This time, extremist Republicans wanted to use the spending bill that would keep the government funded for the rest of the year to make a stand against abortion. This powerful minority would not vote for any bill that contained funding for Planned Parenthood, even if it meant shutting the government down. This is a classic example of the Tea Party’s "take no prisoners" strategy. They want to hold the government hostage until their political demands are met.
Boehner was a huge roadblock to this no-compromise strategy. He was well known as a dealmaker who searched for ways to reach across the aisle and keep things moving. While hardly a bipartisan force, he is an establishment Republican who knows how the political machine works. Tea Partiers, by contrast, are purists. They have been laying siege to Boehner for most of his five-year run as Speaker because they wanted him to use the Republican majority to force their positions through the House. In the process, they completely ignored a filibuster-bound Senate and a Democratic president with veto power looming like a final boss over every law.
Any no-compromise strategy should worry everyone, even people who are politically aligned with conservatives. On the surface, a purist politician seems great. A politician who is straightforward about their beliefs, willing to fight hard, and unwilling to play political games sounds like breath of fresh air. In actuality, such an individual is dedicated to the destruction of democracy.
The House Freedom Caucus, the most recent embodiment of the “hell no” branch of the Republican Party, has approximately thirty members, according to National Review. A group of thirty people holding an economic and political gun to the government in the form of a shutdown is not democracy — it is political terrorism. No one, from the Freedom Caucus to the American Communist Party, should be able to force their minority views on an unwilling country. Boehner’s resignation is a sign of how powerful this faction is becoming, and a warning to people who want a functioning democratic government.
Currently, it looks like the speakership will stay in the hands of establishment Republicans. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the expected successor. He is definitely of the establishment, known for being friendly with both Tea Party conservatives and moderates. However, many people are concerned that McCarthy is not a strong enough force, personally or politically, to bind the party together. He is known for hosting movie nights and playing pranks on fellow Congressmen, not for making tough political decisions and inspiring loyalty, as explained by The Washington Post.
People vote based on a politician's political platform. Does a candidate share your views on the economy, civil rights, privacy, abortion, and a plethora of other issues? While ideological questions are important, it might be time for people to start looking a little more closely at how candidates work within the practical political machinery of Washington. With Boehner’s resignation, the no-compromise politicians we’ve been sending to Congress have managed to tear apart a system of House leadership that has been in place since the Civil War. If we want to preserve America’s unique democracy, it’s time we start taking care of it.