To the Editor:
Does John Boehner like what he’s seeing in the mirror these days?
Maybe not, but the problem for the nation is that he is too fond of what he sees on his office door: “Speaker of the House.”
Boehner could lose that by acting like a statesman instead of an extortionist. What has been called the "suicide caucus" among House Republicans, led by Mark Meadows, would try to dump him as speaker the instant he called for a vote on a clean budget resolution or on raising the debt ceiling.
It’s the Democrats who could save him and the country too. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should offer him Democratic votes to keep the speakership if his own party turns on him for doing the right thing. It’s the whole House, after all, not just the majority caucus, that elects the Speaker.
It would take only 17 Republican votes to keep Boehner in the speakership if all 201 Democrats had his back.
Presently, the Democrats are trying to get that many to sign a discharge petition that, under House rules, would preempt the Speaker’s obstructionism. But it might be a lot harder for 17 moderate Republicans to buck Boehner directly than to vote to reward him for doing the right thing.
What I suggest would require historic statesmanship on the part of the Democrats, and there may not be much of that virtue left on Capitol Hill. Still, it’s worth a try.
In practical terms, the Democrats would be offering Boehner a temporary coalition to keep the government solvent. He could continue to try to repeal Obamacare, but not at the point of a gun.
Coalition politics is how governments abroad function when no party holds a majority and some American legislatures have had to resort to them too.
In effect, there are now three parties in the House — the Democrats, traditional Republicans, and the Tea Party. Unable to win elections on its own, the Tea Party has taken over gerrymandered House districts like a virus infecting a host.
Many good citizens identify with the Tea Party out of a frustration with government. Liberals share that too.
But the difference is that the Tea Party is being played like a violin by other ultraconservative groups, including the billionaire Koch Brothers who financed its establishment.
The New York Times reported Sunday that the strategy to destroy Obamacare by threatening to defund the government was hatched more than a year ago by some three dozen conservative groups under the leadership of former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.
They had lost the elections for the presidency and the House despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars to misrepresent and demonize Obamacare. The spending continues.
One of its most tawdry tactics is to try to persuade young people against signing up for insurance coverage. That’s playing politics with their lives.
It is sinful.
But it’s no more so than what their puppets in Congress are threatening to do if they can’t destroy Obamacare.
A deficit default would be the worst economic tragedy to befall this nation since the Great Depression.
No foreign enemy could hope to do us so much harm.
But as Pogo the possum used to say, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Martin A. Dyckman