Sunday, September 27, 2015

Congress Loses Its Boehner

They Said He Was Soft On Obama
Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced his resignation both from his speakership and from the House of Representatives at the end of October. This is a big deal. The take-aways:

  1. Boehner leaving means a gov't shutdown most likely will not happen (check the headline!). He now doesn't care about his political future and can do what he wants. This pushes the actual battle to close-to-the-election Dec 11 (assuming Boehner passes a Continuing Resolution before he goes) and fills some on Capitol Hill with dread.
  2. Marco Rubio announced the surprise resignation to a standing ovation at a Values Voter speech he was giving. Boehner leaving is seen by many as further signs that the conservative interests are "winning" the GOP civil war (which is bad for Jeb Bush).
  3. Kevin McCarthy (Majority Leader) is most-likely to succeed Boehner--but there are others who might get the nod. Popular conservative radio star Mark Levin has already come out against McCarthy as too squishy.

What To Make of This?

Eric Cantor was one of the first, real high-profile conservative-wing "scalps." Boehner is the next serious casualty (although The Omnivore thinks Walker and Perry count in here too--more on that in a second). Boehner tried to hold a leaky coalition together and it became clear that going into the next election cycle, something was going to break. It turned out it was Boehner.

This brings us to the level of a "shooting war" in the GOP schism. While The Omnivore has been of the "they'll muddle through" opinion of GOP leadership, it's possible this could actually splinter the party. Why?

The Whig Party split over the issue, basically, of slavery. The Northern Whigs became Republicans. The Southern Whigs became the Confederacy. Today that kind of split can't really happen--but a different one is. The rise of the outsiders have given the conservative wing a set of voting options that are directly aimed at the establishment. They're taking them.

Following the 2014 elections, republicans turned against Boehner when the gains in the House and Senate failed to materialize the changes they had been told would be achieved. The rise of the narrative that their congress had simply sold out set the stage for Trump, Carson, and Fiorina. It also made formerly acceptable strong conservative candidates like Walker and Perry less acceptable. They weren't Fuck-You enough.

Trump is definitely Fuck-You enough.

If you scoffed at the idea that Perry and Walker were strong, you were not reading conservative message-boards during 2012 and after. Perry's dismal performance was forgiven by a large portion of the conservative audience as the explanation that he had back-surgery and was on heavy medication was at least partially true (he did have back surgery and was probably on medication). His 2012 campaign was fairly gaffe free--but he didn't get a second look because of Trump.

If Jeb had been topping the polls you can bet Perry would've.

The same goes for Scott Walker. Walker certainly tanked his own run in a number of ways--but one of the key fundamental drivers of that behavior was that up against Donald Trump, Walker's attempt to dominate the right-hand lane just looked milquetoast.  When that wasn't selling, he slewed around unsure how to handle a challenger he couldn't out-conservative.

But let's contrast Perry and Walker to Ben Carson and Herman Cain. Perry and Walker are both reasonably successful governors with serious resumes. Of the three kinds of presidents (Governors/Senators, Military Heroes, and Business Men) guys like Walker and Perry do the best. For military heroes, it helps if you won WWII. We haven't elected a business man in modern history and even in the past they weren't generally good presidents.

The idea that Cain or Carson could win a general election is delusional. The idea that Perry or Walker couldn't win a general election is wishful thinking. In a different environment (that is: as an alternative to Bush instead of Trump) both of them could have unified the establishment and the conservative wings of the party. Walker, given time--and the support of the establishment--would have improved by August 2016.

Conversely, Carson's campaign is essentially "Vote for me, I'm a very conservative nice guy." Like Cain, that will get you somewhere right now--but it won't get you to the finish line.

Keep in mind that Carson has about double Jeb Bush's percent of the vote.

What Now?

Rather than being mollified, The Omnivore thinks that the conservative wing will want to go after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bobby Jindal called on him to step down in his own speech at the Voter Values summit. While McConnell has fewer problems in the (generally saner) Senate, guys like Ted Cruz will be staking their campaign on picking the right fights--and the right fight, today, is with the GOP Establishment.

The coming likely failure to defund Planned Parenthood will just stoke the fires higher ("We elected a GOP House and Senate--and got nothing!" and "Now we got rid of John Boehner--and still got nothing!"). The feeling that daylight is "just around the corner" will be stoked by guys like Levin and Limbaugh (a guest host on Limbaugh noted that Boehner leaves with "one last betrayal"). In the end, of course, the way out is to elect a conservative president--but the guys who were most likely to fit that bill are out of the race early.


  1. I wonder where the GOP civil war ends - outcomes that don't include going full-Whig seem increasingly unlikely. But then what are the implications on the larger political world?

    1. There is a very large group of angry, disillusioned, and economically challenged "conservatives" who will need to swallow a whole lot of pride in coming together with the populist left, though this type of union works from an economic-interest perspective. Unless folks stop listening to the Right echo chamber, I don't see this happening.

    2. Given declining religiosity worldwide, the progressive Pope and his influence on resetting the relationship between movement types and regular people, I think the days of the "moral" majority and their outsized influence on politics will soon be on the wane.

    3. New demographics are unavoidable, and we may see a blueing South sooner than anticipated. When this occurs (not if), the moves to limit voting rights or gerrymander wins will come under increasing scrutiny and fire. So this means that maybe the only way forward is to "join them" under a point 1 scenario.

    This is a bit rambling but what are your thoughts? What is the sequel to "There will be blood"?

    1. I don't know if the Republican party can actually "break up"--but I think that right now we're going to "have a go at it." Conservatives want McConnell to resign next. Cruz is staking a portion of his campaign on fighting the power. Trump + Carson + Fiorina create at least the mirage that there is a 3rd-way (and more than 50% of polled Republicans are taking it right now!).

      I'm wary of demographic trends as destiny--but I think there is a very real trend that conservatives are *more* unhappy with the way events are going than either democrats or independents: see here Electoral Vote's look at Republican views.

      Things to watch:
      * Do we get a shutdown in December?
      * Does Trump last past Oct 21 (the equinox!)

      If these happen then I think there is evidence that the GOP Establishment has lost control--and lost its voting base. That would be the pre-condition to collapse.

      -The Omnivore