It’s that time of year again: Spring is in the air, a midterm is on the horizon, and a young radical's fancy turns to revolution. Yes, it's time for another right-wing plot to dethrone an extremely conservative speaker of the House.
National Journal reports that "in discreet dinners at the Capitol Hill Club and in winding, hypothetical-laced email chains" unhappy Tea Party Republicans are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. John Boehner, the man who has managed to successfully maneuver a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president into passing one austerity budget after another, is considered a squish for failing to bring down the state. This is not the first time. It was only a year ago that similar threats were whispered and nothing came of it. But this time they insist they're serious. If they could just settle on a plan.
The "Liberty Caucus" led by Justin Amash and Raul Labrador (aka "the wacko-bird" faction) has never liked Boehner and has threatened to form an angry mob. Again. Even Eric Cantor is in their cross hairs since he made what's now apparently considered an ideologically unacceptable error by allowing what has always been a pro-forma vote to pass with a voice vote. They aren't just angry. They're hurt. They feel they've been violated:
"It's an issue of trust. If you want to have a majority that is governing, and a majority that is following the leader, the rest of us need to be in a position where we trust our leadership," Labrador said this week, adding, "When you have politicians actually playing tricks on their own party, and their own members of Congress, I think that erodes the trust the American people have in the rest of us."
"I can't think of a time where I felt my trust had been more violated since I've been here—and that's pretty stiff competition," Mulvaney added.
Others are upset with just everything and want a clean sweep of all the people in charge. They're especially unhappy that the leadership isn't coming up with any Big New Ideas. Apparently, it gets boring after a while just sticking it to the poor and banging on Benghazi! They're looking for something sexier to get excited about. (Anybody up for a little impeachment?) And then there are those who are looking to cut a deal with Cantor as long as he agrees to bring on a Real Conservative™ as his deputy. It looks like getting this coup together before 2020 or so may be a bit of a challenge.
But plots to usurp GOP speakers are an old story. Back in the ‘90s, before the ‘98 midterms, the emergent right wing (all of whom would likely be considered liberal sellouts today, simply for raising the debt ceiling) staged a failed coup against the man who had recently ruled Washington like a Roman Emperor, Newt Gingrich himself. He started the Republican revolution but inevitably was a disappointment to the true believers (as always) so the rest of the leadership plotted against him.
The plan was for Dick Armey to succeed Gingrich, but the story goes that Tom DeLay told them at the last minute the caucus preferred the Paul Ryan of his day, the young Turk Bill Paxon. Armey went home and spent the night praying, came back the next morning and revealed that God didn't want him to depose Gingrich after all. Nobody really knows if that's altogether true, but the results are there for all to see. Gingrich was wounded but survived and DeLay stayed in the leadership for almost another decade and ruled it with an iron fist. Dick Armey carried on for a while and then left Congress to form the Tea Party super PAC Freedomworks, which has since been riven with financial scandal. And poor Bill Paxon lost his political career and was never heard from again.
The whole silly pageant showed what Time magazine snarkily described as "all the talent for intrigue of Peter Sellers in his Pink Panther days." This new crop is more reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel trying to pull one over on Ricky and Fred.
When they worked themselves into a frenzy last year over Speaker Boehner's obvious hippie tendencies, they came up against a big roadblock: there is nobody acceptable to replace him. They have a little problem with their bench, you see. Evidently there aren't a whole lot of House Republicans who are both ideologically correct and popular enough to win a caucus election. You'd think that would make them take a second look at their strategy, but there's no evidence that's the case.
The bottom line is that the far right is frustrated. They are radicals who believe that Republican officeholders should hold their breath and turn blue at every opportunity. Then voters will finally be convinced that these are the kind of people who should be running the government. It's obvious what an excellent plan that is. Why in the world can't John Boehner and Eric Cantor see that?