We’re all going to be treated to an orgy of inside baseball over the weekend about the genesis of House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation, and lots of weepy stuff about his sacrifice in the national interest. Indeed, some hands are wringing over the terrible weakness of the contemporary Speakership, as though that is some hallowed Washington Institution.
Asked by Politico to comment on that dire possibility today, here’s what I said:
I’m afraid I have to challenge the premise of a Politico question again. The Boehner resignation didn’t show the demise of the Speakership, but its abiding strength. Think about it: Congress avoided (more than likely) a federal government shutdown; angry conservatives got a scalp; and Boehner himself got the clock ticking early on the one-year lobbying ban that’s the only thing standing between him and vast wealth. Everybody wins!
More fundamentally, the problems with the House since 2010 have less to do with the power or powerlessness of the Speaker than with the inability of certain Members–and the radicalized conservative movement they represent–to recognize the limitations of the House as an institution in an era of divided government. Many conservatives became furious at Boehner and the GOP Establishment for failing to keep promises they had no business making. If everybody stops pretending a House majority can tell a president of another party what to do, the House and the speakership will be healthier institutions.
To put it another way, the problem that led to Boehner’s resignation isn’t going away other than temporarily, even with a different personality holding the gavel. What’s required is an end to the ideological delusion that leads conservatives to believe they are destined to have their way.