When you heard about John Boehner’s poorly considered denunciation of House Republicans over immigration reform, did you wonder how the speaker went from a tea party-backed victory to coming out in favor of something many Republicans hate the very idea of?
Boehner has a bad habit of waffling on the issues (see: Boehner’s Doublespeak Proves We Have No Conservative Party). His remarks during last December’s budget war about the loss of credibility by conservative groups were hardly justified by the minute deficit reduction in the deal he supported. The speaker’s failure to stick to his guns underscores the real struggle for Republicans this election year. Who will win the battle between big government Republicans and a tea party platform that just says no?
Why such a shaky alliance with the tea party?
When it looked like the GOP was on the comeback trail we all felt pretty good about a new chance to put a stop to the out of control Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda. Boehner sounded confident and gave credit to the tea party before he became the new speaker:
The Tea Party movement has reminded us who’s really in charge of this country, and that’s the American people. These great patriots have been at the forefront of a growing political rebellion born from the American people’s opposition to greater government control over our economy and our lives.¹
The tea party reminded us and Republicans forgot. Four years later and by all appearances fragmenting over Obama’s withering criticism on immigration, compromise has been placed on the table too often when obstruction is the one strategy that works. So far, doing nothing has staved off much of what Republicans hate, like spending on our welfare state, advantaging illegal immigrants, and forcing businesses to raise wages.
Obstruction works. Despite Obama administration efforts to manipulate last fall’s government shutdown and Republican refusals to comply with administration demands on policy, Democrats are on the run and trying to scratch up enough midterm votes to keep their grip on Congress. The world didn’t end because the GOP said no to Obama.
Compromise has a different outcome. What did participation in the Gang of Eight do for conservatives? It gave Democrats a reason to chide the party for refusing to agree. What did negotiating a budget bill last December get us? Historic agreement on the federal budget that the GOP should have been embarrassed for being involved in (see: Did the GOP Back Progressive Extremists Instead of the Tea Party?).
Republican obstruction drives Democrats and the president out of their progressive minds. The tea party platform terrifies Democrats and rightfully so. It puts the brakes on everything they stand for. So why are we now hearing John Boehner behind a microphone undermining conservative policy and for all appearances stabbing his party in the back?
Tea party makes it easy to say no to things Republicans hate.
If the GOP could follow one simple rule we could avoid moments like the newest follow-up to Jeb Bush’s ‘act of love” comment: just say no to things Republicans hate. Republicans have no credibility on immigration. The issue is a guaranteed loser. Despite nods to border security, capitulation is what Democrats are after and there are already calls for a bill that removes enforcement triggers. If a compromise deal was struck, border security would vanish before the ink on the president’s signature was dry.
Tea party obstruction beats selling out.
This year’s fight is not over what government can do for the people, though a president rubbing his hands together at the thought of reinstating Nancy Pelosi as speaker would tell you otherwise:
We need Nancy Pelosi as speaker because folks like Nana over there, cleaning houses, may need her help and she’s going to look out for her. We need Harry Reid staying as Democratic Leader in the Senate because there are kids just like Elijah but who aren’t as lucky to have parents with the resources that Alonzo [Mourning] and Tracy have.²
The real battle is over what government is doing to and spending on people like Obama’s poster children for big government paternalism. When compromise won’t work, tea party obstruction will. After all, this is supposed to be an American dream, not an American government dream.