No one has worked harder in recent days to delegitimize John Boehner than John Boehner.
Boehner’s boneheaded “Plan B” scheme, which crashed and burned Thursday night after his own House Republican Caucus refused to provide the needed votes, will rank as one of the greatest failures ever by a House Speaker.
The latest Gallup Poll suggests only a quarter of Americans now support Boehner’s approach to the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, as opposed to 48 percent who approve the way President Obama is handling the fight over taxes and spending.
So Boehner is losing it. Literally.
So embarrassing was the Plan B charade that there is now widespread discussion not about if but rather about when Boehner will be relieved of his speakership.
But Boehner‘s troubles did not start this week, or this month.
He lost his legitimacy on November 6.
The American people voted that day for a Democratic House of Representatives.
The Democratic vote was 59,318,160.
The Republican vote was 58,143,273.
The Democrats won 49.1 percent of the vote to 48.1 percent of the vote.
Yes, of course, Republicans control the majority of House seats. Thanks in no small measure to redistricting abuses and massive spending, the Republicans took 53.8 percent of the seats in the House versus 46.2 percent.
But the fact that Republicans in the states gamed the redistricting process sufficiently to hold the House, and to keep Boehner as the Speaker, did not make Boehner a legitimate leader, or a legitimate “fiscal cliff” negotiator.
He needed to earn that status.
Boehner and his Republican colleagues should have recognized the weakness of their position when they went into negotiations with President Obama, who won re-election on November 6 by almost 5 million votes, for a 51-47 margin and an overwhelming majority in the Electoral College. That does not mean that the Republicans needed to surrender all of their positions; but they should, at the least, have bent to the political reality of their dwindling circumstance.
Instead, Boehner negotiated as if he was the political and popular equal of the president. He’s is not that—at least if we’re still taking election results seriously. Despite Boehner’s diminished status, President Obama gave the Speaker the respect that is afforded a credible negotiating partner.
Unfortunately, Boehner squandered the opportunity.
He did not negotiate well.
He did not even organize his own caucus for the fight.
Instead of his boneheaded Plan B, Boehner gave us Plan C—for “chaos.”
A significant—make that definitional—percentage of the House Republican Caucus does not appear to see Boehner as a legitimate leader.
They are, for all intents and purposes, right.
The American people voted for a Democratic Congress on November 6.
What the American people got, however, is a Republican House. That’s how our system works sometimes. The trouble is that, with the Republicans came John Boehner. And the trouble with Boehner is that he lacks the external and internal legitimacy that is required for a “leader” to lead.
For more on the fiscal cliff, read Dean Baker on the chained CPI proposition.