Robert A. Levine 9-30-15
What does John Boehner’s resignation as House Speaker mean for Congress and for America? It ain’t good. Boehner was forced out by the Tea Party conservatives who are uninterested in having the federal government succeed in any of its endeavors. Boehner was a decent guy, conservative in outlook but willing to deal with opponents to help government to function. It might be said that he favored country over party and would compromise when necessary in the best interests of America.
The extreme right-wing faction that forced him out is the “my way, or the highway” crowd who will close down the government, disregarding the economic consequences if their objectives are not met. As former Republican Governor of Michigan, John Engler, said of those opposing the Export-Import Bank, they’re “economic illiterates” which is true of the entire Tea Party group. They do not know, or care to know, how government works, and how compromise is necessary for the government to run. (They are also scientific illiterates, not accepting climate change or evolution as reality.) The extreme right-wing conservatives are only one faction of those elected to Congress and far from a majority. What gives them the right to demand that their playbook should be followed by everyone in Washington?
Unfortunately, many of them come from “safe” districts that were gerrymandered by the Republican legislatures and governors of their states. This means that their base supports their actions and does not care if the government is shut down. The vast majority of Americans do not want the government to be shut down over the funding of Planned Parenthood, but the Tea Party does not answer to Americans other than their base constituents.
The right-wing conservatives would also like to block any raising of the nation’s debt limit which means that America would default on its debts. The American dollar would no longer be considered credit-worthy and would no longer be the currency of choice in international commerce. This would have huge negative consequences for the economy and the stock markets, but the Tea Party and its supporters would not care. They basically want to destroy the structure of American government and the economy and put it back together again in the fashion they envision.
American businesses, both large and small, want the Export-Import Bank renewed and the federal debt limit raised. Establishment Republicans and virtually all Democrats agree with these moves, but the Tea Party appears intransigent. Long-time establishment Republicans must be flogging themselves over having helped to elect these populists in the first place, with their money and Super PACs supporting these know-nothings who forced Boehner out.
Where does America go from here? Are their enough sane Republicans in the Congress to select a new Speaker who is not a “my way or the highway” guy? Will the government stay open and the American dollar retain its credit worthiness? Though everyone seems focused on Trump, he’s not the big issue at the moment. Hold on to your hats and stay tuned. It’s a time of real crisis for American democracy.
Photo by Katherine Welles, Shutterstock