Post Boehner, Scholars Expect Trouble In The GOP

By Anthony J Gaughan, Drake University; Christopher Parker, University of Washington, and Jeanne Zaino, New York University

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) called it quits Friday. He will leave his position – and his seat – at the end of October. Three scholars of American politics tell us what forced Boehner out and predict how his abrupt departure will resonate in the US Congress.

The Tea Party strikes again

Christopher Parker, University of Washington

For some, Speaker John Boehner’s resignation comes as a surprise. Why voluntarily resign from the third most influential position in American politics?

It’s quite simple: after four years of trying and failing, the speaker grew weary of trying to persuade some members of his caucus to compromise. On several occasions, the Tea Party faction of the GOP has refused to even attempt

finding common ground with Democrats. From debt ceiling fights to government shutdowns (and threatened shutdowns), to comprehensive immigration reform, and now to Planned Parenthood, the speaker, an establishment conservative, has tried to persuade these reactionary conservatives to do the right thing.

Why did he have such a tough time with the reactionary wing of the GOP conference? As I have illustrated in my book on reactionary politics in the US, the Tea Party faction represents constituents fraught with fear and anxiety that their country is being “stolen” from them; it’s changing too fast. For these people, as Richard Hofstadter pointed out many years ago, compromise is commensurate with capitulation to evil.

The battle between establishment and reactionary conservatives will continue for the foreseeable future. However, the reactionary faction won’t have John A Boehner to kick around any longer.

Christopher Sebastian Parker is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. His book Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America, explores the beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of the Tea Party. He is working on a second book about the Tea Party.

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