Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced his intention to resign. A week ago, I speculated on his future prospects — House Republicans on his right flank were making noises about unseating him, and might he need Democratic votes to save his Speakership? The possibility of his resignation, mid-term, didn’t even occur to me; this is something that hasn’t happened in a century and a half, and then it was because the Speaker, Schuyler Colfax, resigned to become Vice President.
I posted a number of things on Facebook yesterday about Boehner. I’m going to put these here.
First, when the news broke:
I’m still processing this.
One possibility — he’s tired of the bullshit he’s getting from the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus. He wanted to be an historically significant Speaker, and the past five years has seen him become one of the least consequential Speakers in history.
Another possibility — he’s seen the writing on the wall, and he knows that, no matter what he does, the Freedom Caucus is going to try to unseat him, and he doesn’t want to fight for his Speakership, especially if it means having the Democrats bail him out.
Third possibility — Boehner has wanted the Pope to address Congress since he was a backbencher. That happened yesterday, so he can say that he’s achieved all he really wanted to achieve.
Next, thoughts on his legacy:
In the wake of John Boehner’s stunning announcement that he’s resigning in six weeks, Steve Benen takes an instant look at his legacy of failure. He asks if “(1) he failed and it’s mostly his fault, or (2) he failed and it’s mostly his members’ fault.” He’s not sure; he sees arguments for both.
I lean towards the first — Boehner failed and it was his fault.
Boehner ran the House in fear of his right flank, the Tea Partiers and the Freedom Caucus. His own lieutenants, Eric Cantor chief among them, had their knives out for him from the start. Boehner could have accomplished things and been historical significant if he remembered that the membership of the House numbered 435, not 220-something. He didn’t have to live in fear, and it was his fear that made him a failure.
The tragedy of John Boehner is that he will have achieved his dream of being an historically significant Speaker of the House in the worst way possible — he’s historically significant because he’s the first Speaker to resign in 150 years and the first to resign to leave Congress and the federal government altogether.
Finally, this morning, some historical comparisons:
The reaction on the right to John Boehner’s resignation has been illuminating. First, there’s the glee. Then, there are those who have said, “Mitch McConnell, you’re next.”
What I realized — and maybe I was already thinking in this direction because I listened to BBC Radio 4’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety recently — is that, as much as American conservatives venerate the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution, they are really taking their lead from Robespierre and Marat and the French Revolution.
And we know how that turned out.
I may have more later, as I want to ponder this Tea Party/French Revolution comparison more.