So, it pretty much bites to be John Boehner, no? At least, that's my first reaction to the McClatchy poll showing (once again) that repeal of the ACA is not, in fact, the popular position.
I was in transit most of the day yesterday, so I'm slow in responding to this one -- see Ezra Klein for more about this specific polls. My first response, however, is that it's a good reminder, once again, of how much trouble is ahead for John Boehner. Really -- is there any way out of the trap that's been set for him?
After all, for lots of reasons House Republicans are going to be pushing for strong, successful action. What they really want -- full ACA repeal, slashing spending, a balanced budget -- they can't get. Can't. Can't. The reality is that Republicans are short about 13 Senators and one president from getting those things, especially since most of them are unpopular beyond hardcore GOP voters.
In other words, if Boehner pushes anything short of extreme policies, his conference is going to feel forced to denounce him as a sell-out. If he pushes extreme policies, they'll pass the House (furnishing great 2012 ammunition for the Democrats, since these policies are unpopular) and die in the Senate. And there's no guarantee that true believers won't blame Boehner for failing to get these things enacted, even though he has no ability at all to do that. My guess? He'll be the target, maybe not as much as Harry Reid and Barack Obama, but nevertheless, he'll be blamed.
(Really. If only he had threatened to shut down the government...if only he had carried through with his threat to shut down the government...if only he had refused to negotiate after the government shut down...if only he hadn't caved after two weeks of government shutdown instead of believing those bogus polls pushed by the biased media instead of the honest polls featured on Fox News showing that the tide was really turning).
Now, the truth is that Boehner does have a few perfectly decent strategies (such as rejectionism without his own policy agenda, or cutting deals to get goodies for GOP-aligned groups), but any viable strategy is going to require buy-in from true believers.
Is there any hope at all for that?
Not impossible, but unlikely. Republican leaders -- most definitely including Tea Party leaders, talk show hosts, all of that -- would have to agree on an alternate strategy. Forget spending cuts and settle for symbolism, such as banning earmarks. Forget ACA repeal and settle for symbolism; I'm sure they can generate something that Obama would sign. Forget real deficit reduction and settle for...oh, it hardly matters, no one cares about the deficit. Settle for phony projections. That'll take care of the deficit.
Call those victories, and move on to investigations and tax cuts -- the former you can do just in the House, and the latter you can at pass in the House and then attack Dems for blocking in the Senate.
Toss in a few votes on Constitutional amendments, and that's your 112th House.
If GOP leaders outside the House were content to settle for investigations, blocking Obama initiatives, and passing a few symbolic things, John Boehner could certainly deliver. If they can present a unified front in favor of that plan, the rank and file would go along.
If they demand more, it's just not going to happen, and he's sunk.
Unfortunately for Boehner, it's highly unlikely that Republican leaders will be satisfied with what's possible. There are too many incentives to demand the impossible -- everything from profit motives for some, to just basic momentum from a landslide election for others. And that spells big trouble for the incoming Speaker of the House. As I've said, I think he's a decent pol, but he's going to have to be a great one to find a way out of this.