House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign will likely be greeted with applause by liberals and conservatives alike, as he presided over one of the most dysfunctional and least productive Congresses in the history of the country. Conservatives will cheer that the weak leader has been replaced by a stronger conservative, and liberals will celebrate the departure of one of Barack Obama’s most prominent Congressional adversaries.
Yet, for liberals, and for the American people in general, Boehner’s exit from leadership may not be cause for celebration. Boehner, for all his faults, was at least a feeble bridge between tea party nihilism and the frayed ends of sanity. His departure blows up that bridge. Without a doubt, the U.S. House was dysfunctional with Boehner at the helm. However, with Boehner out, that dysfunction is almost certain to get worse.
The list of Republicans who are most likely to replace Boehner as speaker, or to advance into other House leadership positions because of Boehner’s resignation, consists of a collection of Tea Party activists and sympathizers. Next in line could be Kevin McCarthy of California, with Paul Ryan (WI), Jeb Hensarling (TX), Tom Price (GA) and Steve Scalise (LA) as other possibilities for either Speaker or House Majority Leader. These five men are even less interested than Speaker Boehner was in running a functioning Congress.
The GOP House without Boehner as their leader will be even more dogmatic, resistant and nihilistic than the current House, and that is not an easy bar to clear. Worse yet, whoever does take the reigns will always be looking over his right shoulder, making sure he is placating the right-wing extremists so they don’t topple him in a political coup for being insufficiently conservative.
In many ways John Boehner has only himself to blame. As House Speaker he frequently allowed reckless reactionaries to hijack the House agenda and to turn the lower chamber of Congress into a perpetual circus. Boehner’s House spent much of its time running kangaroo courts to investigate phony scandals, and passing dozens of pointless resolutions to defund Obamacare.
The toothless House Speaker was never very successful at controlling the radicals in his party, who incessantly fought to undermine the last vestiges of functioning government. Boehner’s resignation will only fuel the growing nihilism of the Republican Party’s right-wing. With the lunatic fringe taking the wheel of governance, and John Boehner no longer on the GOP side of the aisle to pump the brakes, the tea party crazies are going to move full speed ahead with their plan to dismantle functioning government. Buckle up America. We’re in for a rough ride.