There is an old saying in politics, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The heat has become too hot for John Boehner, and he has announced that he is stepping down as Speaker of the House.
The reason for Boehner’s downfall is quite simple: His criteria of “getting things done” put him at odds with the conservatives both in and outside of Congress who viewed it was the job of the Republican majority to be the loyal opposition. Ultimately, Boehner decided to try to counter the media and Democratic narrative of a “Do Nothing Congress” which led to conservative dissent. The fact that Boehner removed conservatives from top committee posts did not help his case.
For too many inside the beltway, “getting things done” is Congress’s job. A notorious example of Republicans “getting things done” was when Peter King of New York called any opposition to the 2013 Sandy Relief Bill “disgraceful.” The over $30 billion in unrelated pork did not matter to King and is an prime example of conservative disgust with the philosophy of “getting things done.”
Eventually “Getting things done” put Boehner at odds with the conservative public that started challenging him or called for his resignation. Compounding this problem was that while Boehner was playing checkers, Obama and the Democrats were playing chess. Republicans have convinced themselves that a government shutdown is the political equivalent to Armageddon, despite evidence to the contrary.
Some Republicans will criticize Obama for telling our enemies and adversaries what he will not do are the same people who defend Boehner when he tells Obama what he will not do. Even if one believes a shutdown is undesirable, basic negotiating tells you not to paint yourself into a corner. One reason that Republicans get blamed for shutdowns is because Republicans preemptively blame themselves. When Republicans say they will not shut down the government they either will give into the Democrats’ demands to avoid breaking their promise and alienate conservatives who want spending cuts and are tired of the “We’ll fight next time” response because they have realized “next time” never comes. However, if they choose to fight, they will confirm the narrative they bought into and is accepted as true.
Instead, what the Republicans should do in the upcoming Planned Parenthood fight is to pass a bill that funds the government, but withholds money from Planned Parenthood. They should then make a statement along the lines of, “If the President and Democrats in Congress oppose eliminating funds for the slaughterhouses at Planned Parenthood, it will be they who are shutting down the government.” They should then run to every TV camera and microphone available and try to convince the public to support them, applying a pressure on the Democrats and Obama which does not currently exist.
Some have defended Boehner by saying that being Speaker is a difficult job. Of course this is accurate, but if John Boehner is not up for the task, then it is time to find someone who is. This is why, despite all his personal faults, Newt Gingrich is considered a successful Speaker by many conservatives.