What Pragprogs Can Teach John Boehner

The Senate negotiations to reopen the government and pay America's bills were on the verge of breakthrough when everyone's favorite empty orange head not on Halloween display decided to throw a monkey wrench into the process. Tea Party Speaker John Boehner announced with his rag tag "leadership" team that the House GOP has a "new" proposal. I put new in quotes because what they presented wasn't a new proposal at all: it was same old stuff we have heard from them before: a bill to demand ransom on the Affordable Care Act just to do their job.

The proposal went through several iterations - from demanding a rollback of a funding mechanism for Obamacare to playing with coverage for birth control to ending up with an unconstitutional proposal to strip subsidies for people who work on the hill. But as luck would have it, Boehner's attempt to genuflect to and appease his crazy caucus was turned back because for the crazy caucus, it wasn't crazy enough. Conservative groups warned Republicans to vote against it, and of course, it collapsed.

John Boehner refuses to learn that you cannot outcrazy the crazy. You cannot out-ideologue the ideologues. You cannot satisfy people who live to be dissatisfied. You cannot please people whose only goal is to put checkmarks on their ideological list, or to "win" some political battle. No matter how much you give into their demands, it will not satisfy them; they will not be grateful. Not being able to ignore them for the good of the country is a failure of leadership, and and if your job depends on keeping that crowd happy, you should get a new job.

Why am I giving John Boehner unsolicited advice? Because this is one thing the political Left has done better than the political Right - keeping our fringe elements at bay. It isn't that we don't have our ideologues whose goal is to "win" points, check off lists, and get freaked out every time governing (compromise happens). We have our own emotarian crowd; our own "professional Left", whose job it is to make money off of manufactured outrage, let the business of the country be damned. It's not that we haven't got our crazy caucus. We just do a far better job of not letting them take over our party.

If we had listened to our crazy caucus, we would never have the president's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Our crazy caucus wanted to kill the bill because they did not have their pony, the public option. When our crazy caucus threatened to air ads against moderate Democrats - nearly all of whom ended up supporting health reform - because they wouldn't go far enough in the minds of the far Left, the president's then-Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel called them out, calling the idea "fucking retarded." The ridiculous Left moaned and whined, but at the end, we got it done. President Obama wanted a public option too, and he didn't get it, but he got the big goal accomplished without allowing the hair-on-fire crowd to bog him down.

You, Mr. Speaker, need a Rahm Emanuel - someone, or perhaps, some way - to control your crazy caucus, call them out, and put them in their place. When President Obama appointed Rahm Emanuel his Chief of Staff, he sent a clear message to the ideologues in our party (a message that still bugs them), that he was going to govern, and he wasn't going let his agenda be derailed by the fringe in our party. John Boehner needs that. He needs a backbone - a backbone to stand up to the fringes of his party and ignore them.

Of course, now may be a little late for that. What may be required is probably not just calling them out, but a painful, bloody process of extrication, with the speakership itself at stake. But given what is at stake in our country, Boehner's ineffectual speakership may be a small price to pay, and his willingness to pay that price alone will rejuvenate his status as a leader.

There is still going to be a bloodbath. Boehner has only himself to blame for that bloodbath. But if the Republican party is to survive - and more importantly, if the Republican party is to not to do too much more damage to this country, they need to start the Tea Party withdrawal now.


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