by N. A. Halkides 1/22/15
How Conservative Disorganization Saved John Boehner’s Speakership • Like most Conservatives, I dearly wanted to see John Boehner (R-OH) unceremoniously bounced from his position as Speaker of the House. His unwillingness to fight the Democrats, his eagerness to cut backroom deals with them, and his support for “comprehensive immigration reform” and the “cromnibus” spending bill that gave away most of the leverage Republicans would have in 2015 all marked him as unfit for any leadership position.
We all knew, of course, that it would be an uphill fight, but I had assumed that from the time of the November elections, House Conservatives would be working behind the scenes to get one of their own elected Speaker, since the desirability of replacing Establishment-men with Conservatives inside the Republican Party was such an obvious goal.
I was wrong: Conservatives apparently didn’t even think about a revolt until the weekend before the vote was held on Tuesday Jan. 6, and no one appears to have openly challenged Boehner until the day of the election! Here’s how it went down:
Thomas Massie (R-KY) appears to have begun working against Boehner on Monday night, less than a day before the vote. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) announced on Facebook that he would “vote for a new speaker” on Tuesday morning, mere hours before the vote. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) then announced he would no longer support Boehner, and he was joined by Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Randy Weber (R-TX), and Curt Clawson (R-FL). But who would they vote for? In a way, it didn’t matter as long as it wasn’t Boehner since no one else was going to get a majority on the first ballot anyway. But the lack of a unified opposition early in the game – both Louis Gohmert (R-KY) and Ted Yoho (R-FL) offered themselves as alternatives, but this seems to have occurred Monday night or Tuesday – obviously undercut the effort to unseat Boehner. (see Politico.com for some of these details).
When the vote was held, 25 dissenting Republicans voted for other candidates, leaving Boehner with 216 votes out of the 408 cast. Now fortune was certainly with Boehner: Michael Grimm (R-NY) resigned and a dozen Democrats were absent to attend the funeral of Mario Cuomo in New York, while still other members couldn’t get back to Washington because of bad weather, meaning that fewer than the expected number of votes were cast and fewer were needed to re-elect Boehner. And given that Boehner’s level of support among the Establishment was strong – supposedly over 100 Representatives said they wouldn’t vote for anyone else – unseating him was never going to be easy.
But the fact is that Conservatives came within 12 votes of preventing his election on the first ballot, and had they gotten those 12 votes there’s no telling what would have happened next. The fact is also that you can’t expect to unseat a sitting Speaker with a spur-of-the-moment effort that begins only hours before the election, and that is the point Conservatives at all levels (voter, party officer and office-holder) need to understand.
Why weren’t Louis Gohmert and some of the other Representatives mentioned above working to oust Boehner as soon as the election was over? It seems inconceivable that they couldn’t have persuaded 12 more members to cast their votes for a viable alternative. Would the pro-Boehner forces have begun to crumble once they realized that Conservatives were dead serious about getting a new Speaker? That is something we’ll never know, and Conservative disorganization is the reason we’ll never know.
I may be sounding like a broken record here (see Mission: Take the GOP and almost everything else I’ve written for ST), but the fact is that organization is one of the keys to political victory (of course raw strength doesn’t hurt either) – it’s why political parties were formed in the first place. The Establishment is weaker in numbers than Conservatives are, at least at the level of the Republican voter, yet the Establishment has maintained its control (and terrible mismanagement) of the Party because it is better organized than we are.
In the House, there is currently one Conservative group, the Republican Study Committee (RSC). It’s a large group, comprising almost two-thirds of House Republicans.
Where was the RSC during November and December? Had it been planning to oust Boehner, it’s hard to see how the insurgent forces could have failed. If it wasn’t planning to oust him, then either it isn’t Conservative enough or it isn’t well organized enough. That is something House Conservatives need to start thinking about.
Meanwhile, at ground level perhaps we need an umbrella organization of Conservative Republicans whose purpose is to seize control of the Republican Party. The Tea Party might serve that purpose if it were unified instead of being composed of several splinter groups. How about founding something we could call UCR – the Union of Conservative Republicans? Every Establishment-man and RINO must be opposed in a primary by a good Conservative alternative; Conservatives must also become more involved within the Party’s internal machinery. Establishment-type precinct committeemen and most especially State Party Chairmen must be challenged by Conservatives if we ever want to gain control of the RNC.
In short, fellow Conservatives, we’ve got the ideas necessary to save our country – now we need the organizational skills to match.
Nik is a freelance writer, former professor, and has written for FrontPage Magazine.
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