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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Boehner’s Myopia Escalates Threat to U.S. Economic Security

House Speaker John Boehner’s inability to secure even one Democrat to vote for his debt-limit bill, not even a single stray blue dog, is a failure of historic proportions that endangers America’ economic security.
Boehner got the votes he needed to narrowly pass the measure, which the Senate quickly smacked down. He knew it was coming, set himself up anyway and then had the predictable tantrum blaming everyone else, leaving political observers to wonder how a guy smart enough to win the speakership could make such a knuckleheaded blunder.
As Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane explained in their WaPo wrap-up:

The change swayed a handful of holdouts, and the measure passed 218 to 210, with every Democrat and more than 20 Republicans voting no. But the episode was a loss of face for the speaker and his leadership team, demonstrating a lack of clout within their own conference. Even their allies in the Senate were stunned.

What Boehner doesn’t get is that Speaker of the House is a leadership post that requires a real commitment to at least some bipartisanship, not just herding Republicans. Partisan rigidity is not part of his job description.
Boehner could have been the hero of this mess by crafting a proposal that would win a healthy portion of Democrats and create bipartisan momentum that the Senate would have to affirm. All of a sudden, he would have looked statesmanlike, the sole grown-up in the GOP room, with the end result that the Republicans get 90 percent of what they wanted. For any prudent leader, that would be a huge win.
But the ideological grandiosity of current GOP leaders is such that anything short of total annihilation and humiliation of the Democrats is unacceptable. I know pre-schoolers who have a more adult vision of conflict-resolution.
So here we are at the 11th hour, with the future of our economic security depending on the maturity and good faith of such luminaries as Mitch McConnell. As for Boehner, smart leaders do sometimes learn from their mistakes, at least those who don’t suffer from rabid egomania. But I’m not betting on Boehner.
The rest of the Republicans, certainly the brighter ones, now have an object lesson in the downside of excessive party discipline. All they have to do is check out the polls (see post below for example) and think about it for five minutes to figure out that the ideological purity thing is not exactly winning the hearts and minds of strife-weary voters. Doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

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