Friday, July 27, 2012

Q Day 6: Boehner?

Drew asks:
How would you evaluate Boehner's speakership thus far?
I think he's done a pretty good job with the challenge he's had, all told. I'd say the two most successful Speakers of the post-reform era were Tip O'Neill and Nancy Pelosi, while Newt Gingrich and Jim Wright were fairly clear failures, although Wright had more significant successes before his fall than Newt did.

My interpretation of Boehner's Speakership is based on two important things about the context: divided government, and the nature of his majority, which is characterized both by extreme polarization (so cross-party compromise is very difficult) and the Tea Party rump along with paranoia about renomination, which makes things within the conference difficult.

Given that, and pending any new information (which certainly could change things), I think Boehner has done what he can in most of the major fights that have developed. The biggest downside is that he hasn't seemed to find any way so far to educate his more reality-challenged Members to reject the crazy -- so he hasn't really done anything to improve the situation. But I think he's basically followed Pelosi (and O'Neill) in doing a good job of balancing party and committee, leadership and rank-and-file.

Again, all of that is very much subject to revision if more information comes out. And it's also based on the idea that there aren't really a lot of serious policy goals involved, or at least not ones that were plausible given divided government.


  1. Don't forget, though, that Boehner's nervousness over renomination isn't just your typical "I have to keep my caucus happy" mentality. He has Cantor nipping at his heels in a way that Foley, Pelosi, and even Gingrich really didn't have. Gingrich didn't get taken out by DeLay or Livingston; he was simply deposed by restive conservatives generally. Boehner has to be legitimately concerned that, at some point in 2013 or 2014, a small slip of the tongue would lead to Cantor overtly gunning for his job, so he needs to make sure his rank-and-file love him more than any Speaker that comes to mind ever has. (Though I'd love to be corrected on that, just to learn more history)

    1. I don't think that's correct, exactly, about Newt. I don't think it was ideological, although it might have hurt him that he's really not a true believing conservative. I think he, like Jim Wright, overcentralized, which led to very few Members having any stake in the status quo. So everyone with any gripe winds up gunning for the Speaker, and no one has any reason to defend him.


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