Speaker Boehner resigns: The tragedy of strategy

Amid all of the many news items flashing across headlines at the end of last week, one sent a shock-wave throughout Washington like none other: “BoehnerJohn BoehnerIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable House GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns MORE steps down from Speakership, to leave Congress October 30th.”  

It was indeed a surprise that House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable House GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns MORE (R-Ohio) proffered his resignation the day after he was seen repeatedly dabbing his tear-filled eyes during and following Pope Francis’s address to Congress. Whether or not one of these had to do with the other is something that may never be known, so we’ll set aside any hypothesis that the two are related, as doing so would be nothing more than gross speculation. 

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More relevant to the Speaker’s resignation was the Henrico County, Virginia electorate’s ouster of his former Majority Leader, Eric CantorEric CantorJohn Feehery: GOP: Listen to Reince The Trail 2016: Dems struggle for unity Overnight Regulation: Supreme Court rejects GOP redistricting challenge MORE (R-Va.]) in June of 2014, when a relatively unknown conservative Republican, and Tea Party favorite named Dave Brat mounted an old-fashioned, door-to-door campaign and wrested his party’s nomination from a man who, at the time, was the second most powerful Republican in Congress. Cantor- the epitome of the go-along-with, get-along-with oh-so-moderate Republicans in the Congress and Senate, was so confident in his incumbency that he forgot to campaign for, and thereby defend, his seat. 

By pursuing a strategy of “let’s not risk our power in Congress by confronting the Democrats and Obama” the loss of his seat was the warning shot across the bow of mainstream, establishment Republicans that they should start listening to their broad base of support -- conservative Republicans who elected them into office. Yet, by and large they didn’t listen.

Fast-forward to the mid-term elections later that year.  Then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable McConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo MORE (R-Ky.), along with Boehner (who had, himself, become Speaker in the mid-term Election of 2010 when the GOP won a House majority overthrowing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democrats), went out and told the country “Give us a majority in the Senate, increase our power in the House, and we’ll defund ObamaCare, and put the brakes on his executive overreach.” The electorate responded, in kind, drastically increasing the GOP caucus in the House, overturning nine seats in the Senate, ousting its erstwhile Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidNearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate McCain files B amendment to boost defense spending MORE (D-Nev.) and delivered to the GOP leadership exactly what they asked for -- a mid-term election of historic proportions, with the largest shift of power on Capitol Hill since the mid-1920s. 

For all of their efforts, the Republican voters were awarded with… (drum-roll please) … absolutely nothing. The Republican leadership did an about-face and returned to their “go-along-with, get-along-with mainstream, establishment oh-so-moderate strategy” of “let’s not risk our majority’s standing by doing nothing, instead”, as if to say, “Screw our Republican base -- they’ll vote for us anyway.” 

So afraid was the GOP leadership that they wouldn’t even risk the political fallout of a threatened government shutdown, on defunding/replacing the wildly unpopular Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) when they had an absolutely magnificent opportunity to do so, and now are doing the same with regards to the disaster that is the Iran deal, and continued funding of Planned Parenthood in the wake of the baby-part-for-sale videos, both of which issues find vast opposition across the electorate. 

Often saying, “We don’t have enough votes to override the president’s veto,” they instead surrender power to the president and the minority Democrats in both houses, without waging any discernible opposition in the first place -- essentially giving up the fight before the bout. 

Wonder why the leading Republican candidates seeking the presidential nomination are non-politicians, and why the leading politicians under them in the race are the most conservative?  Recent polls have shown that almost two-thirds of Republican voters (62 percent) “feel betrayed” by the GOP leadership in Washington. 

Simply stated, the “go-along-with, get-along-with mainstream, establishment Republican Party” has gone the way of the dinosaur, which is why the Jeb Bushes, the Lindsay Grahams, and the John Kasichs of the world will not get the nomination of Republicans who have grown weary of being taken for granted by these Democrat “wannabes” and demand, instead, a truly conservative Republican Party as a true alternative to the increasingly socialist Democratic Party. Having been burned five times by moderate Republicans, who went down to defeat in prior elections (Ford ’76, Bush-the-elder ’92, Dole ’96, McCain ’08, Romney ’12), and barely squeaking by with a moderate/semi-conservative George W Bush twice, they have since awakened and are thus demanding that a true conservative, along the lines of a Ronald Reagan, be nominated. If that doesn’t work, they will settle on any Republican who is willing to call out Obama for what he is, Hillary for what she is, and the Democrats for what they are, because they are absolutely fed up with the oh-so-deferring and gentlemanly chivalrous Republicans, who have about as much fight in them as a wet dishrag. 

One would think that the departure of Boehner and the demands for replacing McConnell would serve as a much-needed wake-up call to the rest of the GOP caucus to either “put up or shut up”  by actually promoting legislation that would finally put Obama and the Democrats on the defensive.  Yet leave it to a “blue-lipped wonder” like McConnell to stand by his principles and ignore the increasingly obvious handwriting on the wall that states, quite plainly, “The analysis of paralysis is nothing more than a strategy of tragedy, and by sticking to it, you will give ALL of the power back to the party you pretend to oppose, while the country will suffer, as a result of you own impotence.” 

It’s the obvious that is most often difficult to grasp, when one cannot envision a forest for the sake of all of the trees.

Nickell works in indirect sales support for a major telecommunications carrier. 

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