As the world watches to see if America can avoid going over the fiscal cliff, House Majority Leader John Boehner must feel the weight of it crashing down on him. Each day he spends much of his time trying to persuade a stubborn Republican caucus to work for the good of the country. However, today’s Republicans do not resemble the ones that were in Washington when he was elected over twenty years ago.
The new “Tea Party” Republicans do not recognize authority, including the President of the United States. They are motivated by a puritan sense of right and wrong. They didn’t come to Washington to govern. Instead they arrived in protest. Today, the fiscal cliff crisis gives them another opportunity to resist, to refuse and to ridicule the House Speaker and the President.
Coming off the sweeping victory in the 2010 midterm elections, John Boehner felt enthusiastic about his chances to lead the new conservative majority. The mantra was “less government, less taxes”. He envisioned that he and the new Tea Party, would accomplish great things by changing the nation’s trajectory from Obama’s 2008 election win. John Boehner worked hard to harness the anger and energy of the shifting GOP base, while attempting to navigate them away from going too far to the right. However, as the months dragged on, Boehner found out that the Tea Party had no loyalty to him. Conversely, they were only compelled by the heated, fact devoid, rhetoric of the far right.
Like a nomad wondering a barren dessert, John Boehner, a conservative with an inclination for compromise, has to find his way back to relevance. He hasn’t been able to pass any meaningful legislation since first receiving the gavel from former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi two years prior. This is because his party’s dominant right wing has pledged to reject any compromises reached with a democratic President. They do not care that Obama won his reelection handily. In their minds, he’s still an illegitimate President who is ruining the country they love. This attitude doesn’t make John Boehner’s job hard… it makes it impossible. Today, he must feel like his tenure as House Majority Leader is being wasted by an unruly mob.
Recently, in a bold step, Boehner offered a proposal to the President as part of the negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff. It wasn’t a serious proposal but instead an attempt to start the dialogue of putting the country on a path to economic health. However, the responses from his extreme conservative members were less than helpful to igniting discussions with the White House.
As a rebuke of House Speaker John Boehner for offering revenue increases in his first proposal, Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Heulskamp, said the following:
“I think there’s going to be an attempt to pass a tax increase through the House, in exchange for what?” “This president doesn’t want to do entitlement reform, doesn’t want to cut spending… I think it makes very clear to conservatives that you’re about to get run over.”
South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, a tea party favorite, denounced John Boehner’s proposal on Twitter as “an $800 billion tax hike [that] will destroy jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more.”
In an unusually personal rebuke, the super PAC, Senate Conservatives Fund, proclaimed the proposal as “Boehner’s tax hike” and slammed the speaker for being “willing to capitulate on the biggest issue that separates Republicans from Democrats.”
This has become the standard attack of many tea party members. They quickly chastise any Republicans who attempts to work with President Obama. The possibility of both parties working together has become an impossible feat.
So where’s the center? It’s nowhere to be found.
The once moderate Republicans like, Indiana’s Sen. Dick Lugar or Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch have been replaced with the likes of Rep. Michele Bachmann and Florida’s Tea Party favorite, Rep. Alan West. The political realism that served the U.S. well for most of it’s history is now completely gone.
Today America is led by a dysfunctional system focused on political talking points, not meaning legislation.
In the end, House Speaker John Boehner will have to find a way to coral his party back to the middle ground or risk losing any influence over the critical issues facing America today.
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