Erick Erickson is a strange man. The RedState editor and paragon of masculine virtue is dismayed that John Boehner won’t shut down the government to stop Barack Obama’s unilateral immigration action. And so, in an effort to show Boehner the error of his ways, Erickson wants to purchase him “some new balls.”
“I guess Barack Obama took John Boehner’s balls,” Erickson wrote yesterday, “because Boehner is playing with the President’s balls instead of his own.” Posting the address for Boehner’s House office on his website, Erickson encouraged his readers to spend $10 of their money to send a canister of blue racquetballs to the speaker. “Maybe if we give John Boehner some balls of his own, he’ll start playing with his own instead of Barack Obama’s on this executive amnesty nonsense.”
Hah! Balls. Get it? Yeah, you get it. See, Erickson is the type of person who divides the world into hyper-masculine “alpha male” tough guys (like himself) and “beta males” who whine and complain, but nevertheless always seem to triumph over the alphas. With Boehner, we see this dynamic playing out once again: the man leading the House of Representatives refuses to do the manly thing and shut down the government, thus he lacks the figurative testicles Erickson prizes so dearly. Score another one for the nutless betas!
But while Erickson may be the only one expressing his frustration through overt genitalia metaphors, he’s certainly not alone in his frustration. Conservative media are lashing out at Boehner for “surrendering” and “retreating” by refusing to hold government funding hostage. Heritage Action, the right’s leading enforcer of conservative orthodoxy, is warning Republicans in Congress not to vote for Boehner’s preferred government funding bill, calling it “a blank check for amnesty.”
It’s a fascinating little tableau, coming so soon after the GOP’s big win on Election Day. In just about a month, the good feelings and camaraderie inspired by the spanking of the Democrats has evaporated completely, replaced by the same old bickering and arguments that have split the party for at least the last decade. We shouldn’t be at all surprised that this is happening, but that’s no reason why we can’t have a good snicker.
It’s also interesting when you take stock of the conservative position on immigration as it pertains to the debate over political “norms” that was kicked up by Obama’s unilateral action. Ezra Klein had a good breakdown of the arguments for and against Obama’s move – while almost certainly legal, there’s a case to be made that the president is acting outside of accepted political behaviors. Tempering that case is the fact that action of this type is not without precedent, and the fact that the White House and its defenders have a strong moral argument for taking action in the face of intractable Congressional gridlock. They’re also bolstered by some fairly decent polling numbers. A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 50 percent of the country supports Obama’s use of executive action, and roughly 70 percent support the goals of that action.
On the other side you have the hardcore conservatives who support using any and all means necessary to fight the president, up to and including a government shutdown. What’s absent from their calculus, however, is any guarantee that such an extreme (and wildly unpopular) action would be justified. The agencies that would administer Obama’s program would still be funded during a government shutdown. The whole point of the exercise would be to force Obama’s hand by deliberately causing harm to the economy and people who rely on the government for their paychecks and benefits. That’s a politically extreme, highly risky, and morally dubious position to take, and the conservative response to seeing Boehner back off from it is to call him a castrated surrender monkey. When you’re talking about violations of political “norms,” it’s helpful to remember that what the conservative wing of the Republican Party has a decidedly warped view of what’s normal.
The fact of the matter is that Boehner recognizes the reality facing him – there’s not much he or the rest of Congress can do to stop Obama. Shutting down the government won’t do it, and defunding the Department of Homeland Security won’t do it. Getting into a shutdown fight and risking the political damage that would ensue when there’s zero chance he’d prevail on the policy question just doesn’t make any sense. For all of Erickson’s childish taunting, this isn’t an instance of Boehner lacking “balls.” He just understands that, at this moment, there’s not much to be gained from being a dick.