Well, he’s gone. More correctly, he’s going.
Speaker of the House John Boehner announced Friday that he’s resigning effective Oct. 30. My reaction, similar to that of most conservatives, was a resounding “good!”
And it is good, even though we’re unlikely to get the truly new blood we need in this position.
Barring some miracle, the next speaker of the House will be someone who has spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C. And you don’t spend a lot of time in Washington and possibly be elected speaker without having ingratiating yourself to a lot of people. And the only currency for ingratiation in politics is money.
Not always our money. Sometimes it’s campaign money. But for members of Congress to be a draw at fundraisers, they have to have some sway over how our tax money is dispensed. No one is going to give $2,000 to get a grip-n-grin picture with a backbench congressman with no power or influence. Juice gets the green.
So who will be the next speaker of the House? I don’t know. But there’s a saying about the devil you don’t know, and I fear we may end up with a person like that.
Boehner was awful at times, unwilling to fight the fights that mattered when they mattered and not having a strategy to at least put Democrats, particularly the president, in awkward positions. But his problems may not end up being unique to him. Considering he still has support from many Republicans – perhaps even a majority of the caucus – finding an acceptable person to replace him could be harder than people think.
The establishment appears to be coalescing around current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. He has some appeal to conservatives too, especially when measured against Boehner. But he will not be a savior.
He’s in leadership, which means he’s had every opportunity to strategize with the speaker to take the House in the right direction. It hasn’t happened. There’s little reason to believe much will change should he be the man in charge. It could, but nothing that happened in his current position would lead anyone to be convinced of that.
So who else is there? Lots of qualified conservatives could do the job. Whether they want it is a different story.
There’s no point in listing names – the list of people you’d like to see consider a run is as unique to you as your fingerprints. And I understand the belief that “there’s nowhere to go but up” when it comes to leadership in the House. But just because it seems like that doesn’t make it so.
If conservatives fracture, if they fail to unite behind one candidate and show a united front, we could end up with the devil we don’t know.
There are egos amongst conservatives. There are friendships. There is loyalty between members. In short, just like the rest of Washington, it’s high school with paychecks.
To elect a conservative speaker, or even a more conservative speaker, it’s going to require unity. That’s the one thing conservatives aren’t good at.
Several conservatives are flirting with a run. If they can’t coalesce around one, we’ll have another Speaker Squish.
Celebrate the retirement of John Boehner, and it is worth celebrating. But it doesn’t mark a victory for conservatism or the end of any battle. At best, it’s the beginning.
Conservatives have determination. They have the fight in them. But whether they have the ability to manage their way to success remains to be seen. A victory is great, but it’s just a victory. The fight isn’t over; it will never end.
Eat, drink and be merry. Just remember that Boehner’s resignation, while significant, is a starting line, not a finish line. Without a united march forward, conservatives may win the first inning but lose the game.