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Monday, October 24, 2016


That’s just what the conservative movement needs right now. Less adult supervision.

But with the fall last week of House Speaker John Boehner — more accurately, with his decision to resign because life is too short for Ted Cruz — that is precisely what conservatives now have. It is a development with sobering implications far beyond the political right.

Not that you’d have known this from the bacchanal of celebration the news set off among conservatives. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was swamped by a roar of approbation when he announced the resignation at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. Sen. Cruz, who has long been Boehner’s chief tormentor, seemed ready to lead a conga line as he joked about it before the same gathering.

And here, it might be instructive to remind ourselves of the nature of Boehner’s supposed apostasy. He was, after all, aligned with his persecutors on pretty much every issue of substance. The Affordable Care Act? Guns? The debt ceiling? There was not a scintilla of daylight between him and them.

But what we’ve learned since the Tea Party came to town is that being right — as in right wing — is no longer enough. Now you must be so unyielding in your rightness that you’d rather damage the country than seek common ground with the other side. To do so is to risk being tarred, as Boehner was, as spineless and weak.

In the end, then, his sin was that he was a pragmatist; he understood, as Ronald Reagan did, as Bill Clinton did, as every successful leader in a democratic system must, that politics is the art of compromise. His sin is that he was a grown-up in a Congress of Tea Party children who made a calculated decision to render that body inert and ungovernable rather than yield, even in the face of inevitable discredit and defeat.

One is reminded of how toddlers will sometimes throw temper tantrums and threaten to hold their breath until they get their way. With apologies to kids — who, after all, have the excuse of being kids — there are echoes of that kind of behavior in this last five years of governance by threat, high-stakes brinksmanship and fiscal hostage taking: In fact, a new such fight was brewing even as Boehner called it quits. Hardline conservatives want to — all together now — shut down the government unless it defunds Planned Parenthood.

Republican Rep. Peter King probably put it best when he said of Boehner’s resignation: “I think it signals that crazies have taken over the party.”

Ya think? Heck, some of us — including some Republicans — have been saying that for years. Moreover, the unruliness of the Tea Party seems part and parcel of a more general lawlessness that has afflicted the once-upon-a-time party of law and order. Consider how GOP presidential candidates rushed to lionize Kentucky bureaucrat Kim Davis, who, in declining to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, did only what George Wallace and Orval Faubus did once upon a time: refused to abide by a Supreme Court ruling. Unable to vindicate their ideals within the rules, conservatives seem increasingly unwilling to be constrained by rules or, indeed, by much of anything.

These are the forces that felled Boehner, and you might describe it as a case of just deserts given that the Speaker once supported, and saw political benefit from, the unleashing of those selfsame forces. But what happened here is not good for any of us. Governance in a democracy requires give and take between at least two political parties. More and more, we seem to find ourselves one party short, the GOP choosing instead to function as a cult or belief system.

Boehner’s departure does not help. It only removes one more adult from the equation in a party that doesn’t have any to spare.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected])

Photo: U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks about an Iran nuclear deal during his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

  • itsfun

    The far left has taken over the Democratic Party and now the far right wants to take over the Republican Party. Imagine what it will be like with the extreme sides of the parties in power. Dueling may come back in DC.

    • RED

      You truly are suffering greatly from the terrible Con sickness if you can actually suggest that the Democrats are anywhere near as extreme and frigging crazy as the nutball Cons. But making up false equivalencies is a Con trademark!

      • itsfun

        As a Democrat can you explain the difference between Socialism and the Democratic Party. If you can, maybe you should be in charge of the Democratic leadership.

        • RED

          As a moron suffering from the Con sickness, you think using the word socialism is some kind of insult, again cause you’re a moron. Were you not a moron, you would be aware that socialist programs have always been a part of the US in both parties, but I refer you again to the fact that you’re a moron who’s tiny brain has been ravaged by the Con sickness. Hey can you explain the difference between fascism & the Republican Party? Uh, probably not cause there isn’t any, but good luck, moron!

          • itsfun

            You can call all the names you want to show your true character. It shows just how much class you have. You are not worth the time it took me to type this.

          • RED

            Ahh, another delightful trait of the Con sickness, victimhood and an unbelievable immunity to irony and hypocrisy. Because of course it’s only permissible for Cons to insult and demean others and complain of political correctness. But they all suddenly develop these high moral standards when they ignorance and stupidity is pointed out. The Con sickness is strong in this one!!

          • idamag

            John Cheese described those ideologues perfectly when he said, “If you are very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize how stupid you are?

          • RED

            True!! Added to that, the Cons hold up their ignorance and stupidity as a badge of honor. They use words like “common sense” or old fairy tales to glorify and spread their ignorance like a terrible plague. The damage these morons have caused and the price we have paid for their complete stupidity and absolute selfish views is enormous and all around us. Even the Con leaders who are supposed to be intelligent are total morons.

          • idamag

            Yes, they are proud of their ignorance. A pity for the nation and a threat to democracy.

          • RED

            It’s truly sad and heartbreaking. I myself live in Birmingham, AL where I’m surrounded by the Con sickness. It’s even infected my own family, people that I’ve known to be loving and caring people that have had the minds twisted by the Fox cult. It’s very disheartening. I wonder where you find those people who specialize in rescuing individuals from the mind control of dangerous cults?

          • idamag

            Religion is not the only cults that practice mind control. I was very proud that my great-great-grandfather was one of the first to join the Republican Party. It was the anti-slavery party then. Therefore: the South was solid Democrat until LBJ signed the Civil Rights Bill. The decent Republicans have lost their party to those low intelligent racists. I live in Idaho which is one of the reddest states in the union. However, if someone, here, uses the N-word, he will get a lot of frowns. And I would call him on it. My daughter, and her husband, moved to Tennessee. I can understand, a little, how it must be for you. She is so frustrated. At least, you can find some intelligent posters, on this board, so you won’t go completely bonkers. Hang in there, I enjoy your posts. You are proof that there is some intelligence in the South.

          • RED

            Thank you for your comments. I wish I had time to write more. As I’m sure your daughter can tell you the bigotry is still very much a part of the South, it’s just not as openly discussed as before but it’s still very much there. And for many, the Cons have so successfully sold their mythology that many don’t even recognize their bigotry for what it actually is.

    • John Murchison

      The far left is, as always, left tilting at wind mills. The Dem’s establishment still rules over their inside groups. Bernie is a fringe candidate still.

  • Larry Gagnon

    I think that the Tea Party would rather shut down the government than compromise. They are not stupid, just determined. I do not think that they have a parallel in the Democratic party. Like many millions of people, I rely on a check from the government every month (soc sec). If the government is shut down and those checks cease, many millions of Americans will become increasingly uneasy. If the Tea Party “wins”, I do not see how their victory will be long-lasting.

  • Otto Greif

    It’s funny watching liberals defend Boner now that he’s stepping down.