Boehner’s exhausted resignation and his misguided legacy
Author: Nicholas Giokas – Contributor
John Boehner has resigned, and he will leave office entirely by the end of October. His resignation raises issues on the health of the American political system and the shift in culture within governing. The main symptom of Boehner’s resignation was that his job as Speaker of the House was an entirely thankless one, not from the opposite party, but rather, from his own.
After Obama’s victory and the birth of the Tea Party movement, the word “principle” took on a new meaning. Every politician will say that they have principles, but there came a new class of Washington politicians that took it a tad too far. The most bothersome for Boehner ended up being the 38-member Republican Caucus that campaigned for defunding Planned Parenthood and threatening government shutdowns to do so. In a sane society, there should not be a government shutdown because of Planned Parenthood defunding demands, not because of the sheer harebrained nature of the idea, but because it tries to do what should be impossible in any democratic system: circumvent the majority opinion by using the raw force of the will of the minority.
Whether you agree with Boehner’s politics or not, his tenure will serve as a beacon for those that would attempt to stand up to the more fringe ideas that some in the minority would hold. The most important belief that Boehner held, as displayed in his “Face the Nation” interview following his resignation announcement, is that the system has guidelines that should be respected- because they ensure protection of all opinions, which can translate to a consensus with those opinions in mind. It may take longer, be more frustrating, and yield far fewer immediate results, but in the long run, it will be fairer; and that is truly what matters. What those in the Tea Party have begun to proselytize is that within a democratic society, it is right to expect to get literally everything you want in legislature while giving nothing up. In essence, the conservatives who cheered about Boehner’s resignation were the morons that think that they do not need to compromise; and what’s more, that they should never compromise because compromising is a sign of weak character.
The absolutely terrifying thing is that this idea has taken hold not only in America, but in Canada as well. To make matters worse, it doesn’t just affect those on the Right; it is just as strong a sentiment on the Left. In Canada, we see examples of “Anyone but Conservatives” camps that portray that any cooperation with Harper, on any level, is making deals with the devil. A prime example would be the public’s reaction to Trudeau’s support for Bill C-51. It wasn’t a perfect bill, but there were needed aspects of it with room for reform. The fact remains that sustainable governance and lawmaking will never be flashy, nor will it be based entirely on the ideology of one section of society. There will always be qualms and issues that significant portions of society want to see change in, but the fact of the matter remains that for those changes to be made, there must be slow, measured steps taken instead of leaps and bounds.
With this context in mind, we should be incredibly respectful of Boehner’s time served as Speaker of the House. Boehner assumed his position when there was not only a Democrat President but also a Democratic Senate. Despite those circumstances, he was able to successfully champion conservative values and pass a great deal of conservative legislation, while dealing in good faith across the aisle. He was able to accomplish what most would never have been able to manage, to wrangle votes for liberal bills so that conservative bills may pass in the future.
It should come as no surprise that after so many years of the impossible task of being Speaker of the House in such a toxic environment, that he would resign after completing another seemingly impossible task: getting the Pope to address Congress. I hope that many would remember Boehner’s finale not as the cheers of some misguided Tea Partiers but as the heartfelt welcome he gave the Pope.