The shockwaves of John Boehner’s sudden exit from Congress and the Speaker’s chair are still being felt in Washington. In a town where the status quo rules, it was refreshing to see some change and see it happen quickly. Predictably, the media has appointed themselves to conduct an autopsy on Boehner’s career in politics. If there is one sure thing in this world, it is that the media will draw all the wrong conclusions about why Boehner was sacked. Here’s what the Republicans in Congress should learn from this:
Mean What You Say
The biggest complaint of Republican voters about Congress is that the people they elected have failed to make good on their campaign promises, and they are right. Republican majorities in the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 were won primarily because candidates promised to fight the Obama agenda. Once the voters did their part, the new majorities put up only token resistance to Obama and told us all the reasons why they couldn’t do more.
You never hear Democrats act like that when they control Congress and a Republican sits in the Oval Office. The last time that happened in the George W. Bush administration, Democrats in Congress were permanently on offense, attacking Bush and everything he proposed. They dragged Bush’s approval ratings down with daily attacks on his agenda and his character. The result was a decline in the GOP brand that propelled Barack Obama into the White House, one-party rule in Congress and Obamacare passed under the cover of darkness. If Republicans want to get any credibility back with their base, they might want to actually do what they say they’re going to do.
Don’t Disrespect the Base
Why is it that political outsiders are leading in all the current GOP presidential polls? Maybe because conservative voters are tired of being disrespected by their representatives in Washington. It’s the strangest thing. Common sense would tell you that politicians should love their base and court them endlessly. The Democrats do this all the time. When was the last time you heard a Democrat politician speak derisively about the Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter crowds?
Establishment GOP politicians hold their base at arm’s length and treat them like red-headed stepchildren. Apparently our leaders feel it’s more important to be popular on the D.C. cocktail party circuit by looking down their noses at the base instead of respecting the people who put them in power. Rather than embrace the passionate, grass roots Americans who put him in power, Boehner was fond of sniping at the credibility of the Tea Party movement. That’s why he became dead man walking.
Fight the Good Fight
One of Boehner and Mitch McConnell’s favorite sports in Congress has been to tell us how they weren’t going to start political battles that they couldn’t win. But how are they so sure they couldn’t win? Did they even bother to try? Even if the votes weren’t there, at least show your base that you are fighting for them at every opportunity. This is smart for self-serving reasons if nothing else. Even just slowing down the Obama agenda is better than rolling over. When politicians don’t fight for their base, it creates the kind of resentment that makes Speakers of the House resign suddenly.
Communicate Often and Well
Perhaps some of those battles on the floor of Congress wouldn’t be so hopeless if Republicans would actually sell their ideas to the American public. It is so ironic that the party of the Great Communicator today couldn’t sell cool, spring water to a man dying of thirst. Instead of picking congressional leaders strictly by who has been there the longest and twisted the most arms, how about choosing leaders who are well-spoken, present well on television and are passionate about the issues most important to the base? Instead we get marble-mouthed “leaders” like McConnell droning on about bipartisanship while conceding every fight to Obama and the Democrats. Boehner did the same thing in the House, and it got him a one-way ticket out of Congress. Are you listening, Mitch?
Image: Gage Skidmore; https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/6236359150/