Thursday, 3 January 2013

Republicans Eat Their Elders

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In the above clip from The Rachel Maddow Show, their latest in a string of “John Boehner Is Bad At His Job” segments, Rachel Maddow gives an interesting little bit of history about Republicans and their leadership scrabbles. Given that MSNBC is absolutely a liberal media outlet, “John Boehner Is Bad At His Job” could sound like a simply partisan attack on the Republican Speaker. However, this is one of Maddow’s best series of segments, because Boehner makes it so easy to ‘prove’, given his numerous bumbling and apparent fecklessness.

Now, part of the Speaker’s problem comes from the intransigence he faced – first from the new Tea Party caucus members that swept into office in 2010, and later by the hyper-partisanship of the election cycle and media-fuelled, echo-chamber-percolated idiocy that seems to have informed certain vocal sectors of the Republican Party.

As Senator Chuck Schumer tells Rachel in the above clip, there is a group of “maybe 50-75… hard-right Republicans who really don’t believe government should be involved in things that have traditionally been” within its purview:

“They’re way out of the mainstream. Now, there have always been people over to the extremes in the House and the Senate This is the first time the Speaker has totally kowtowed to them. They dictate the policy.”

This faction has an effective “veto-power” over the Speaker and what the Republicans can do.

Rachel highlights an article in The WeekHouse Republicans’ long history of regicide”, by Joshua Spivak. This, I thought, was a great article, and certainly a nice bit of historical context. It delves into not only Boehner’s current problems, but also the House GOP’s “propensity, throughout the 20th century, for periodically getting rid of their leaders”.  Spivak outlines the important difference between the Speakership and other leadership roles in the US government (save the Presidency):

“Tossing out a speaker is in many ways a drastic measure because, unlike other congressional leaders, the Speaker of the House has demonstrable power over the institution. In one of the many ironies of American politics, the House of Representatives, which was intended to channel voters' opinions, has been a top-down, leadership driven branch of government, in contrast to the historical every-Senator-for-himself model on the other side of the Capitol. Due to this top-down structure, the speaker, unlike the majority leader of the Senate (frequently referred to derisively as the majority pleader), can bend the chamber to his or her will.”

I highly recommend the article. There’s a good amount of detail in there, and it’s pretty well written. The Week also has a nice run-down of opinions on whether or not John Boehner will be able to keep his job as Speaker, compiled by Peter Weber.

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