Ross Douthat of the New York Times has put forward a new and interesting theory about the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Once we all have stopped laughing at the thought, he brought up some good points.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: had John Boehner not been Speaker of the House and instead someone more radical, such as Newt Gingrich been in charge, the damage to this country would not be bad, but catastrophic. The way Mr Douthat puts it is to compare Boehner to a bomb defusing operation — disaster management. Boehner, for all of his ineptitude, did prevent a worse disaster from occurring. And with some in the GOP ready and willing to engage in manufacturing a disaster, it is clear that perhaps Boehner is not quite as bad as one might suspect.
Boehner has managed to squeak deals by at the last possible moments, often times counting on Democratic support when his own caucus fled him. Through his actions the nation has avoided defaulting on our debt and managed to preserve needed financial stimulus to prevent a slide back into recession. It was ugly to witness and Boehner came across as ineffective but, surprisingly, it worked. He also knew when to pull back, letting Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell create the final fiscal deal.
Boehner is not an effective speaker in the least. However, he has been a solid wall between the good of the nation and a far worse disaster. It may not have been intentional and it could be fighting against the tide. What instead we find is that the Republican party is now in the same position which the Democrats were in back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, in control of the house, but not a national party. Gingrich exploited this position to victory in 1994, creating a national Republican unified front. But the decades in this place have rotted out the core of the party. To win, he cut deals with radical groups from all areas, and now those groups, embodied by the Tea Party, have effectively eliminated the party on the national scale. As the Democratic Party found out in the 1990’s, you cannot lead from Congress. As former speaker Tip O’Neil said famously, all politics is local. The Tea Party movement, an astroturf group founded by wealthy corporatists, has taken this rule to extremes and now the entire Republican party is looking to become a regional party, one without a national presence.
The party focused so hard on winning back Congress for so long, it seems they forgot what to do once they had it. The efforts have won, but as the old rule goes, be careful what you wish for, you may just get it. Boehner holds power not due to popular will, but due to gerrymandering districts, and he technically leads a smaller portion of the US population than his opposition as a result. The move the GOP has done over the past few decades to secure power has isolated them from the mainstream population of the United States. Now all that stands between the majority and the destruction of our nation is this orange man.
May whichever deity you worship take pity on us all.
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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