The Memo

The Memo: Boehner’s blasts don’t move today’s GOP

Former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is letting fly at former President Trump in his new memoir — as well as taking aim at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tea Party Republicans in general.

Boehner, who is 71 and retired from Congress in 2015, has nothing to lose by calling it as he sees it. But whether his views can move the GOP in any discernible way is a much different question.

Right now, it looks like the party has left Boehner behind and moved decisively in Trump’s direction. The shift, in turn, makes Boehner’s accusations seem plaintive rather than powerful.

Boehner blames Trump for having “incited that bloody insurrection” when the U.S. Capitol was attacked on Jan. 6. He argues that such violence was inevitable because of Trump’s rhetoric —“the bullshit he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November.”

Boehner is equally scathing of Trump’s broader idea that there was a shadowy “Deep State” that was working to undermine his administration from the get-go. The theory, Boehner writes, was “horseshit.”

Boehner had been swept to the Speaker’s chair in the first place by GOP victories in the 2010 midterm elections. Among the new members were a number of Tea Party-inspired candidates whose rise was fueled in large part by vociferous opposition to then-President Obama.

“You could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name — and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category,” Boehner writes.

It’s the kind of comment that only deepens the wrath many on the populist side of the party feel toward the former Speaker, whom they consider emblematic of an overly clubbable and accommodationist brand of Beltway politics.

“John Boehner should perhaps remember that it was the Tea Party that changed his title from congressman and minority leader to Speaker of the House,” Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots group, told The Hill. “It was also the Tea Party that changed his title from Speaker Boehner to former congressman Boehner.”

Ripostes like that underline an uncomfortable fact for Boehner and his ideological allies: In the ongoing struggle for the soul of the Republican Party, their side has been losing for roughly a decade.

It’s not just Trump’s continued preeminence within the party that tells the story.

A new Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday included a question about whether respondents believed President Biden had legitimately won November’s election.

Among all adults, 64 percent believed Biden was the legitimate victor and 36 percent believed he was not.

Among Republican voters, just 26 percent believed Biden had won fairly, while 74 percent asserted he had not. In other words, three-in-four Republican voters believe a false allegation that a former Republican Speaker calls “bullshit.”

It’s little wonder, then, that other figures within the GOP who are broadly in line with Boehner’s viewpoint worry that there is no immediate sign of the tide turning in their favor.

John “Mac” Stipanovich, a longtime fixture of Republican politics in Florida and a Trump critic, bemoaned the prominence of far-right and far-left figures in Congress whom he argued have no real interest in anything other than self-promotion.

Among GOP figures in that category, he referenced Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), as well as the scandal-afflicted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

“You can go back a long way and come up with names like Howard Baker or Everett Dirksen way back in the day — statesmen in the Senate or the House of Representatives,” Stipanovich said, referencing two past GOP Senate leaders. “Now it’s this weird agglomeration of clowns, kooks and cads.”

GOP strategist Dan Judy took a milder tack but shared the same broad concerns, noting how far the GOP has moved over the past 10 years.

“Two things are interesting — one is the new people who have been elected, but the other thing is the way formerly ‘establishment’ Republicans have moved toward the populist ideology,” he said. “The net effect of all that is to move the party away from a more establishment mindset, and toward a more populist mindset.”

The populists believe the wind remains at their backs. And they evince no great concern about what the likes of Boehner has to say.

Trump, in an email to The New York Times regarding Boehner’s book wrote: “Was he drinking when he made this statement? Just another RINO who couldn’t do the job!” The former president’s aide, Jason Miller, separately told the Times that Boehner is a “swamp creature.”

Trump is ready to keep flexing his muscle against the establishment in party primaries — and it’s not hard to see why he likes his chances.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — as establishment a figure as they come — had distanced himself from Trump at the time of the Jan. 6 insurrection, but has lately been more muted in his criticism.

The Economist poll released Wednesday weighed McConnell’s favorability rating and that of Trump. Seventy-nine percent of GOP voters had a favorable view of Trump. The figure for McConnell was 40 percent.

Boehner’s memoir is another shot fired in the GOP’s civil war. But it is the opposing side that is, even now, still ascendant.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.

Tags Boehner Capitol breach Donald Trump establishment Republicans GOP insurrection Joe Biden John Boehner Lauren Boebert Marjorie Taylor Greene Matt Gaetz memoir Mitch McConnell Ted Cruz
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