Conservatives in the House have many reasons to really dislike outgoing House Speaker John Boehner.
Since 2011, Boehner has lost numerous end-of-year budget and big-picture policy battles with President Barack Obama. That’s in large part because he was either unable or unwilling to pressure Obama even when the public strongly supported conservative goals.
For example, conservatives want a clear debate on federal funding for Planned Parenthood, whose leaders are seen on video admitting their secret trade in valuable organs taken from late-term aborted babies. Boehner has made little or no effort to win a P.R. battle over the hoped-for transfer of $500 million in federal funding from the abortion group to other medical groups that don’t perform abortions.
Whenever Boehner did put up a P.R. fight it was usually brief and faked. In November 2014, just after the successful election, Boehner promised he’d fight against Obama’s self-created amnesty for 5 million migrants. “I’ll just say this: We are going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern. This is exactly what the American people said on Election Day they didn’t want!” In December and again in March, he subsequently gave up the fight in exchange for Democratic support for a complex giveaway to Wall Street donors.
Boehner also did little to slow down Obama’s regulatory agenda, and he lost repeated end-of-year budget fights once Obama, the Democratic Senate, GOP Senate leaders and the media inevitably united against him.
He didn’t even stop Obama’s amazing nuke-and-cash giveaway to the nation’s long-time enemy Iran. In fact, he tacitly supported the deal by passing the 2015 “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act” which okayed Obama’s deal unless the GOP could win 67 votes in the Senate.
That’s the kind of Washington Kabuki that conservatives and ordinary voters increasingly recognized during Boehner’s tenure as “Failure Theater.” The failure theater strategy was developed by the establishment GOP to mimic popular opposition to Obama’s alliance of big-business, progressives and good-ol’-boy GOP local interests, while actually working behind closed-doors to let the establishment triumph.
Boehner didn’t fight hard for many conservatives’ goals, but he did fight hard for donors and the Chamber of Commerce, which is the main funder of the party’s dominant pro-business wing.
In June 2015, for example, Boehner strong-armed reluctant Republicans to approve the “Fast Track” law, which will help Obama push through his secretly-drafted, pro-business, anti-American, free-trade deals during 2016.
The pending deals will expose blue-collar Americans to competition from low-wage Asian countries, and force down the salaries of white-collar Americans by allowing companies to import more guest-workers for skilled jobs in the United States. The deals will help the parties’ business donors, and push more Americans to accept dependency on the progressive state — and so damage the GOP’s future.
Similarly, from November 2014 to February 2015, Boehner used the Failure Theater strategy to mimic opposition to Obama’s planned Oval Office quasi-amnesty for 5 million migrants, but gave up the fight once Obama offered to support a pro-Wall Street measure. The 2016 draft budget plan still doesn’t include any measures against the amnesty.
In 2015, Boehner also supported a update of the business-backed Common Core education bill, despite mounting evidence that the law is being used by Obama’s political allies to impose a progressive agenda on K-12 education.
Boehner’s and his deputies deputies repeatedly trashed and undermined the GOP’s conservative wing during intra-party, closed-door disputes.
They denied conservatives a fair share of the leadership’s pot of election money, even though conservatives paid into the fund. Boehner and his allies denied valuable committee slots to conservatives and pushed conservatives off committees. The leadership even egged on outside groups to undermine conservatives. In March 2015, for example, the American Action Network announced it would spend $400,000 to hit conservatives leaders who were trying to stop federal funding for Obama’s November 2014 amnesty of 5 million migrants. The pro-business network was founded by a GOP donor who invests in hotels that profit from cheap labor.
Boehner’s closed-door pressure reduced the overall number of ideologically-conservative legislators in the GOP caucus down to roughly 40. That’s the membership of the Freedom Caucus group within the party. In contrast, most GOP representatives are closer to Boehner — non-ideological, get-along-go-along legislators who are easily persuaded by their friends at the local Chamber of Commerce to avoid ideological fights and to instead promote the short-term, crony-government interests of business, not the long-term interests of Americans. Most GOP legislators are not liberals — they just don’t want to join tough fights for long-term, small-government conservative victories.
But that non-Boehner alternative strategy of constant fighting and pushing is precisely how P.R.-savvy Rep. Newt Gingrich ended the Democrats’ 50-years of rule in the House in 1994. And it is how Obama’s progressives are winning most large, medium and small political fights, even as they periodically get stopped by an outraged public.
In public, Boehner has repeatedly trashed conservatives.
In April 2014, he lashed out at Americans who were blocking the business-funded, Obama-led effort to swamp the nation with 33 million new immigrants over the next 10 years — who would spike stock-market prices by simultaneously dragging down average wages and boost overall consumer spending.
“Here’s the attitude,” he complained to the audience of Ohio business executives. Then, as Breitbart reported, “in a high pitched, theatrical voice, Boehner screeched out, ‘Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard.’” At the same event, he sneered at the Tea Party groups that helped elect him into power in 2010. “I’ve gone to hundreds of Tea Party events over the last four years. The makeup is pretty much the same. You’ve got some disaffected Republicans, disaffected Democrats. You always have a handful of anarchists. They are against everything.”
Two months later, Tea Party voters ejected Boehner’s top deputy from the House. That unprecedented expression of populist opinion reportedly killed Boehner’s plan to hand over his Speakership to his pro-business GOP deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor.
But Boehner could have been worse.
Armed with the massive House majority given to him by the Tea Party, Boehner did win some big victories — he persuaded Obama to sign the budget-cutting sequester that trimmed year the 10-year spending plan by $2.4 billion without raising taxes on ordinary Americans, for example. He stopped Obama’s nation-changing immigration bill, despite enormous personal and political pressure from donors, the media and his Chamber of Commerce friends. He effectively ended earmarks, and didn’t do anything to aid Obama’s destructive foreign policy in the Middle East, with the massive exception of the Iran deal.
Boehner doesn’t get much credit for some of these important conservative things, in part because they’re the minimum that conservatives voters deserved when they created conservative House majorities in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
But he could have been worse — and now many conservatives are worrying that his likely successor, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy — may be worse that Boehner.
McCarthy likely has the P.R. skills that Boehner lacks, but he’s far more vulnerable to pro-amnesty demands from his district’s agricultural business groups, from progressives’ Hispanic front-groups, and Silicon Valley donors.