Instead, Trump was a consequence of the shifting dynamics in the United States – and particularly within the GOP – that allowed an anti-establishment candidate to rise to power and act on his worst impulses during his time in office. mandate.
Put simply, Trump was gasoline on the proverbial fire.
Former House Speaker John Boehner, in excerpts from “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” provides clear evidence that the Republican Party was already grappling with its identity and ideology long before Trump was a serious candidate for political office. , when the Tea Party-affiliated candidates won a number of Congress seats, Boehner wrote: “You could be a total jerk and get elected just by having an R next to your name – and that year at fact, we did pick up quite a few in that category. ”Sadly, those Boehners labeled“ morons ”won an outsized voice in the House GOP conference, bringing their extreme opinions and conspiracy theories to the table. Congress. They pushed for legislation that had no chance of being passed – including cutting funding to Obamacare while President Barack Obama was in power and Democrats in control of the US Senate – and attempted to do so. obstacle to raising the debt ceiling, which would have led to fiscal Armageddon. opinions were further amplified by a right-wing media ecosystem eager to support these members of Congress. As Boehner notes, Fox News talents like Sean Hannity and Fox News executives, then Roger Ailes, were all too willing to provide these fringe members with prime-time placement every night. After all, giving these members a public forum to complain about their latest man-made scandal was good for ratings – and for the network’s bottom line. Which made a number of these Tea Party members – including many formed the Freedom Caucus – so it was difficult to work with their apparent lack of interest in actually governing. Instead, many of them got absorbed in developing their media personas. Former US Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, first elected in 2006, is one example. Boehner writes that his political rise was emblematic of the ability of conservative media to transform “people who were once marginal figures into powerful media stars.”
Rather than presenting political plans to solve the problems facing everyday Americans, the rejectionist wing of the GOP was more interested in voicing grievances, stoking anger and settling political scores. In contrast, I spent most of my days focusing on the work of my committee, serving the interests of my district, and largely avoiding national media attention.
However, Boehner and I could not ignore the threat these extremists posed to our party. At the time, the government was divided. President Obama and US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were the most powerful Democratic voices in Washington DC. The only control over their liberal agenda was the Republican majority in the House. Together, the two sides should engage in difficult negotiations and ultimately compromise in order to govern effectively.
But there was a glaring problem. For many of these rejectionist members, compromise was tantamount to surrender or surrender. In fact, many of these members called me the leader of the “surrender caucus”. What earned me this label was my willingness to fund the government, to avoid a catastrophic default on America’s full faith and credit, to vote for emergency aid to victims of the Hurricane Sandy, to enact new violence against women law authorization that included protections for LGBT Americans – and other sins too numerous to mention.
Unfortunately for Boehner, he never had a chance. How could he succeed in the negotiations when a bloc of about 40 GOP House members undermined him at every opportunity and weakened his position in a meeting with Obama, Reid or even the Democratic leader in the Nancy Pelosi Room?
As Boehner often said, “If I don’t have 218 votes, I don’t have shit.” And his inability to keep the Republican caucus united meant he was often left as the very type of leader he warned against. “A leader without followers is just a guy who walks around,” he would tell me. But he was absolutely right – the party was fracturing and there was no clear sense that would emerge as new leaders.
My personal breaking point came in September 2013 on the eve of the futile and self-serving shutdown of the government of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. At that time, I observed how a freshman U.S. Senator in his first year in office recklessly plunged the country into turmoil, encouraged by an echo chamber of conservative media that was too willing, apparently to do advance his own bare presidential ambitions. Should we be surprised that Boehner qualified Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh”? Worse yet, too many GOP congressmen who knew better joined this stupid march out of fear.
Yes, much of the history of the Republican Party’s transformation has been built on fear – fear of marginal colleagues, fear of marginalized grassroots, and fear of marginal primary challengers. Seems familiar? No one could harness fear better than Trump himself.
In 2016, Trump made fear the highest form of political power. And those hardline GOP fringes, who were very good at telling Boehner what he couldn’t do, suddenly got the keys to the castle.
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