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Jan 08 2015

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Futility is Not a Virtue for Conservatives

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Unserious - and Damaging to the Cause...

Unserious – and Damaging to the Cause…

Tuesday should have been a day of pomp and ceremony. A day filled with smiles, and for the American people, relief.

For the first time since 2006, Republicans are again running the show on both ends of Capitol Hill. The six-year reign of policy terror initiated by the President and his allies in Congress – a reign that fattened the debt, diminished the middle class, hollowed out the work force and hobbled the economy – is finally over.

The only legislation that is going to become law between now and 2017 will have to have the Republican Housekeeping Seal of Approval on it.

It should have been a day for celebration.  But instead, it turned into a day of rancor and spectacle, courtesy of a cohort of House conservatives.

Purist conservatives, for whom perpetual unhappiness appears to be their preferred happy state,  set out to flex their political muscle and depose John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

Boehner, a mainstream conservative whose life story and rise to Speaker embodies the very best in Republican values,  stood accused of committing various heresies in deviating from conservative orthodoxy;  heresies committed in pursuit of actual governance and accomplishment, which only added insult to injury for the plotters, as such a course necessarily requires setting priorities, achieving what is possible and compromise. So the theologians of all that is right sought to stage a coup and promote a more ideologically appropriate candidate to the top House job, on what should otherwise have been a festive day comity on Capitol Hill.

By way of context, revolts in the political ranks are not something to be taken lightly.  It was just this sort of activity that led to the end of Newt Gingrich, and posed a challenge to Boehner back in 2013. In many instances, such activity is a bellwether of necessary change.

But not this challenge, which had all the trappings of a farce.

There was no, strong principled challenge to Boehner, one that was could be rooted in deeply held grievance among a cross-section of the Party in support of a seasoned and experienced alternative. Instead, the coup plotters revealed themselves as malcontents and worse,  embarrassed themselves and other, committed conservatives by showing their cause as frivolous and unserious.

25 of the 246 Republicans chose not to support John Boehner for Speaker.

One GOP back bencher voted “present,” the rest – unable to agree on a single candidate – nominated a bewildering array of political figures for the job.

Rand Paul got a vote, even though he serves in the Senate.

Colin Powell, who has twice endorsed President Obama, was the choice of another.

The rest mostly endorsed each other, lawmakers who, candidly, have neither the temperament or experience to be Speaker.

Mortifying for the conservative cause, some of these voice nominations were greeting with snickers and even outright laughter in the House chamber.

The mainstream media – despondent about the midterms and the loss of the Democratic Senate – happily played up the drama in the House as a way to deflect from the otherwise good news that the Obama legislative agenda is now officially dead and buried. At least for a day, reporters got to revel in the supposed anarchy inside the Republican caucus, even as there was less to the dissent than what appeared.

 In the end, 90 percent of the GOP supported Boehner; a recognition of what he has done in the last two years to cement and expand the Republican majority. That is no small achievement given the obstructionist antics of the purists who effectively shutdown the government in a lost cause charge against Obamacare in October 2013, triggering the biggest drop in Republican approval among voters since Watergate. Had the Administration not epically failed with its incompetent rollout of Obamacare, which came to light right after the shutdown, and effectively washed away the narrative of  Republican obstruction,  it might have been Nancy Pelosi getting the gavel yesterday, courtesy of the purist GOP.

For the losers yesterday, there was the ever-present “symbolic” victory.  Voices of dissent were heard.  Principle was upheld. Notice was given.

Such utter nonsense.

Nothing was won yesterday – most particularly by conservatives.  Battles aren’t won by committing to futile causes.

Maybe Matt Kibbe and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) had a good day of fundraising off of this – enough to keep them and their bought-and-paid-for Members throwing wrenches into the legislative process at every turn. But ultimately, this is a failed strategy.  If you fight every single fight without regard to the war, you will lose – badly.

The Tea Party right in the Republican Party has been ridiculed and caricatured unfairly. Constitutional rule, balancing budgets and restoring individual liberty are not extreme positions. But when those same people – egged on by outside money groups – create the kind of unflattering circus that was captured in yesterday’s vote, they deserve to take it on the chin.

The good news is that with the Boehner and McConnell now securely in charge, the GOP can get down to the important business of proposing an agenda that finds common ground with the President where it can, and providing an alternative vision when it can’t. That requires pragmatism and political savvy in support of principle and purpose.

If those rebel conservatives want a genuine change in the government they will join that train. It is only by this process – tangible progress and better policy – that the congressional GOP can lay the cornerstones of successful presidential campaign that can take back the White House, and the real repair and reform of America can truly begin.

 

 

 

 

 

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