Speaker of the House John Boehner has finally decided to resign after about four years as the Republican leader of the House of Representatives. His departure has elicited a mixed reaction. Many establishment (moderate) Republicans and Democrats have expressed sadness over the breach in the GOP, while more hardline conservatives have been unabashedly rejoicing.
But one thing is for sure, the fact that Boehner is resigning indicates a major rift in the GOP. Establishment Republicans accuse Tea Party Republicans of being “rejectionists”—meaning Tea Party conservatives don’t want the civil government to operate as it has and refuse to vote for any legislation that includes compromise. Tea Party Republicans call moderates RINOs and compromisers.
And no moderate got lambasted quite like John Boehner. He was the king of the RINOs for the entirety of his tenure as Speaker. But why is he leaving now? And what should we expect next?
These are tough questions. It may be that Boehner is leaving now because he thinks he can accomplish (or already has accomplished) everything he wants to. It’s more likely that he is weary of the constant strife in the House. In his own words:
I got plenty of people following me but this turmoil that’s been churning now for a couple of months, it’s not good for the members and it’s not good for the institution. If I was not planning on leaving here soon I can tell you I would not have done it.
Boehner also mentioned that Pope Francis’s address to Congress was a “crystallizing” moment for him. Perhaps the emphasis on the Golden Rule and “working together for the common good” led him to believe that there was little he could do in the House. Who knows.
But what comes next? Again, that’s a tough question. Kevin McCarthy might take over as Speaker. But he will likely face the exact same problems that Boehner faced. And he doesn’t have the same allies.
With a poll surfacing that reports 62% of Republicans feel betrayed by their party, it seems that the tide is turning in the GOP. Most Republican voters have indicated great frustration with “the Establishment” and its legacy of compromise. The very fact that a blustering buffoon bag of bravado like Donald Trump could be leading in the polls indicates just how fed up Republican voters are with the GOP status quo.
But Trump is not the solution. And the Tea Party may not be either. Like it or not, this country is deeply divided at the national level, and the likelihood of achieving national harmony is slim. The solution here is to return power to local communities where the solutions are clearer and more harmonious. But as long as big government and federal micro-managing continues, you can expect national politics to become ever more contentious. When the stakes are this high, no one is willing to compromise.