The Texas Model

The Texas State Legislature is a living museum of political lunacy. It features a taste of every offering off the far right menu. Gold freaks, fundamentalists, racists, conspiracy theorists, guns nuts, if it has ever shown up in a Facebook post from your wacky great-aunt, it has an enthusiastic sponsor among Republicans in Austin.

Despite holding a massive legislative majority and controlling every statewide office, most of the wildest ambitions of Texas Republicans have thus far been thwarted. Unlike Kansas, where unbridled Tea Party enthusiasm has delivered a government gripped by crisis and an economy in tatters, Texas remains minimally functional.

As bad as recent Legislatures have been, they could have been a lot worse. A decade ago a revolt by “moderates” deposed a fanatical House Speaker. He was replaced by Joe Strauss, a relatively rational Republican leader who derives much of his support from Democratic legislators. As our Congressmen in Washington look to replace John Boehner as House Speaker and climb out of the mire of hyper-partisan dysfunction he helped create, the Texas Model offers a lesson in how parliamentary politics can emerge from the swamps of extremism.

Boehner’s Congress may be the most broadly hated major political institution in our history. Every ounce of that vitriol has been richly earned. Unable to shepherd even the most banal legislation, Boehner prioritized his personal political survival over national priorities. The House under Boehner devolved into a disaster factory, yielding nothing of use to either his own party or the country at large.

Complicating Boehner’s term as Speaker was persistent discontent from his right flank. A third of his coalition was aligned with the Tea Party and unwilling to compromise not only with Democrats, but with Republicans or with any other force of politics or nature. Determined to refight the Civil War through legislative gridlock, this solid core of congressmen were committed to nothing so much as obstruction.

Under Boehner, Republicans in the House continued and even expanded a principle developed under the previous Republican speaker, Denny Hastert that blocked efforts at bipartisan lawmaking. Under the Hastert Rule, the use of Democratic votes to advance legislation was taboo. Almost nothing was allowed to pass unless it could be passed on the strength of Republican votes.

What Boehner failed to appreciate was that in a body of 435 members, a 70-member coalition of Tea Party nutjobs is not a majority. He was a prisoner of choice. There was a solution available that would not only have allowed him to pass reasonable legislation in the public interest, but might have helped him rescue the Republican Party from its own self-immolation. The Texas Model was available all along.

Texas’ experiment in bipartisan leadership has its origins in a rebellion by a small cohort of pragmatic Republicans at the opening of the 2009 legislative session. Democrats and Republicans alike were frustrated by the incumbent House Speaker’s autocratic, personally disrespectful, and ideologically batty leadership. Republicans held only a 2-seat majority in the House. By peeling away votes from eleven Republicans and enlisting the near-unanimous support of the House’s Democrats, the rebels succeeded in electing Joe Straus Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

By breaking the informal rule against electing a Speaker with bi-partisan support, Straus has built a remarkable power base. The Tea Party has consistently targeted him both in the Legislature and in his home district in suburban San Antonio. State Republican platforms have consistently targeted him with provisions designed to undermine his authority. He may be the most publically despised and privately cherished figure among the state’s Republican politicos.

In national terms, the Legislature under Straus’ leadership has been a bastion of extremist politics, but the results have been nowhere near as wild and disastrous as they might otherwise have been. Straus’ leadership helped to halt a bizarre effort to challenge the TSA’s security rules that threatened to shut down the state’s airports. Since he took leadership the House has softened an earlier law that would have made Bible classes in public schools mandatory. It has blocked efforts to repeal the Dream Act, the nation’s first law granting in-state tuition to undocumented children.

His leadership helped the House block efforts that would have begun the privatization of the state’s public schools, removed all gun-licensing restrictions, paid a $2000 bounty to anyone who apprehends a transgender person using the “wrong” public restroom, and asserted the state’s right to invalidate certain federal laws. More importantly, he has been able to maintain the basic functional integrity of a body infested with bizarre characters.

In the US Congress, the numbers and atmosphere are right to foster a Texas-style revolt. A potential Speaker who could line up significant, though perhaps not unanimous support among Democrats, perhaps 170 of the 188, would only need the support of 48 Republicans to win the gavel. There is no modern precedent for such an effort, but there is also no modern precedent for such a catastrophically ineffective Congress.

Constructing an effort like this might take time. However, this style of parliamentary politics embraced in the unlikeliest of places points to a nearly inevitable future in Congress. As the extremes in both parties harden their determination, the House will not likely return to proper function until the Texas Model prevails there.

Changes in the way our political system operates mean that one-party legislative rule is probably doomed to futility. As the parties themselves decline in power there is no reason to expect that they can continue to exercise such dominant influence in our legislative bodies.

We refer to “Tea Party” congressmen without a hint of acknowledgement of what the moniker implies. It is, in fact, a sub-partisan faction whose members deserve to be treated less as members of the majority party than as allies in a multi-party coalition. The Tea Party is probably just the beginning of an emerging collection of well-branded, publically acknowledged sub-partisan institutions. The Texas Model offers a method for House leadership to manage this evolving political reality. The structure of our system forces us to operate through dual parties, but it does not prevent coalitions among sub-parties across those party lines.

Boehner’s Congress was a whopping failure because neither he nor its other leadership figures were willing to countenance the end of binary, two-party legislative politics. Our next effective Speaker of the House, regardless which party they claim allegiance to, will probably preside over a sub-partisan, not bi-partisan coalition, even if everyone in it claims an “R” or “D” label.

He or she will be elected to their position by members of both parties. They will appoint committee chairmen from both parties. They will pass legislation using a shifting coalition of members from both parties. Being Speaker of the House in an atmosphere of fractured partisanship will be a tough job; considerably tougher than it used to be. Though, it still will not be as difficult as John Boehner made it look. If this model can impose some semblance of rationality in Texas, it can work anywhere.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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68 comments on “The Texas Model
  1. 1mime says:

    As the title of this post invokes Texas, I offer the following story about one of TX’ own, Ted Cruz. It appears that his Senate colleagues have had enough of his grandstanding and self-absorbed pandering. One has to wonder how any person whose tactics provoke such revulsion from his own colleagues would ever get anything done as President. It is tragic that such a narrow, narcissistic individual was elected a senator in the first place. I would adore voting FOR Joe Strauss in a head to head campaign with Cruz. ADORE.

    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/ted-cruz-senate-rebuke-planned-parenthood-214183

    • flypusher says:

      “What does denying a second mean? Denying a recorded vote. Why is that important?” Cruz said. “When you are breaking the commitment you’ve made to the men and women who elected you, the most painful thing in the world is accountability.”

      No, it means that you are an asshole, and even your fellow GOPers are sick of your crap. This Texan prefers the people representing me to behave like adults.

      When’s this asshole up for reelection? 2018? Enough time to persuade Strauss (even though he’s doing so well at t his current job) to run?

  2. “…removed all gun-licensing restrictions…”

    Point of order. We don’t license guns and never have. We don’t license gun owners, either. We license permission to carry a handgun in public concealed, or as of 1/1/16, openly. (This applies to law abiding citizens only, of course. Criminals don’t ask the state for permission to carry a weapon.)

    I’m looking forward to Jan. 1. I routinely carry my S&W J-frame .357 in an outside the waistband (OWB) holster. The J-frame sports a 2″ barrel, so even an OWB holster is readily concealed by an un-tucked T-shirt; it’s perfect for Houston summer weather carry. My cool weather carry gun is a Springfield XD-S .45; with its 3″ barrel an inside the waistband (IWB) is required to ensure total concealment. With an OWB holster for the XD-S, the tip of the holster might occasionally peek out from beneath an un-tucked shirt. Come January I won’t have to worry about that. As OWB holsters are uniformly more comfortable than IWB holsters, I’ll be wearing OWB holsters exclusively henceforth. I don’t intend to carry openly, per se, I just won’t have to worry any longer about accidentally flashing a glimpse of holster.

    • johngalt says:

      Just a point of order here: has any CCL holder ever been arrested or fined as a result of the kind of brief flashes of hardware about which you are apparently so worried and, assuming the answer is no, what exactly is the justification for open carry?

      • johng, I don’t know the answer to your first question. However, if you ever happen to take a CHL course, your instructor will inform you that anybody who “displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm” is subject to prosecution for a disorderly conduct Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. Similarly, any CHL holder who “intentionally displays the handgun in plain view of another person in a public place” is subject to prosecution for an unlawful carry Class A misdemeanor. In Texas, class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both jail time and a fine.

        Class A & B misdemeanors are no joke; “intentionally displays” and “calculated to alarm” are very much in the eye of the beholder. I don’t want any chance of incurring that kind of liability, and some anti-gun folks would be only too happy to try to make it happen. Note that even with open carry you can still be cited for disorderly conduct with a firearm; all the change in law does is raise the bar on what constitutes “display… calculated to alarm.”

        I don’t ever intend to carry openly under any but incidental conditions. I don’t see any reason to give up the tactical advantage of concealment, nor do I want to make myself a target for a miscreant looking to arm himself (or herself) at my expense. An alarming number of LEOs killed by gunfire are killed with their own firearm; I have no desire to expose myself to that scenario. There are some situations where I might find myself driving on a public road in the vicinity my hunting lease with my sidearm strapped to my waist, but I don’t generally plan to be walking around with my hog leg strapped on in public.

    • EJ says:

      “Nominalism” is a good word. I learned something. Thank you.

    • johngalt says:

      The “hardliners” about which the article refers start from a radical extension of Reagan’s campaign sound bite that “the government is the problem.” The best government is (virtually) no government. The problem is that people basically like what governments provide (schools, roads, security (both physical and social), stability, so directly cutting that is not an option. To get there, you have to convince people that the government is incompetent, inefficient, corrupt, overbearing, unfair. How better to do that than elect hardliners whose intransigence causes the government to be incompetent, inefficient, corrupt, etc.?

    • 1mime says:

      Pretty interesting checklist, Fly. Looks like if we can get past this week, we reeely have something big to look forward to on Dec. 11th. I wonder, Lifer, how bad does it have to get before we all go down in flames? It certainly appears that the hard right is girding for a major melt down. Is O’s pen the only check and balance left? What if it’s not enough?

      • Sir Magpie De Crow says:

        Yes. So many wonderful choices for GOP majority leader, 1 mine.

        It is sort like if a traveling salesman asked you,

        “So what would like good sir? Would like this heap of feces? Or perhaps this mound of excrement? Or how about this delightful hill of crap… or maybe this large pit full of fresh dung? Why I even have a few dozen barrels of fertilizer if that is your preference!”

      • johngalt says:

        Some years ago, South Park portrayed an election (to choose a new school mascot, I think) in which the candidates were a giant douche and a turd sandwich. Seems similar.

        Amongst the problems are that anyone sane enough to actually be competent at that job knows that you’d have to be crazy to want that job.

      • 1mime says:

        That’s really a sad commentary on our times, JG. When I made the decision to run for office back in the late 80s, good people were willing to “serve” and depart. Sure, there were those who wanted a career in politics, but the combination of political “temps” and careerists somehow worked. Why? Consensus wasn’t a dirty word and compromise wasn’t verboten. People serving in elected positions did believe in government and governing.

        For all that contemporary times has to offer, in governance, we are losing our sense of humanity and concern for others, and by extension, the general welfare. If that’s supposed to be progress, it’s only working for a very few who are unapologetic about their objectives. It’s very hard for me to accept that this helps our nation be a better place to live.

      • 1mime says:

        It’s official, Hastert’s Rule be damned, with all Democrats voting yes, (T U Nancy Pelosi), the House passed stop-gap budget for a whopping two months, getting us to Merry Christmas time, 12/11. Boehner fell on his sword thus depriving hard line conservatives of a whipping post. Only 91 Republicans voted for the budget extension which did include PP funding, which, of course, royally miffed Monsieur Jordan and company(Freedom Caucus et al)….With only 91 Repubs voting to extend the budget, we are in for some tough sledding to get the votes to raise the debt ceiling which peaks late Oct/early Nov….not to mention getting the budget past 12/11. Obama has said he will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling (it is money approved and obligated by Congress, after all) and Boehner and McConnell are hoping to work out a “grand deal” with the President. With Jack Lew in the catbird seat, Obama won’t be such an easy mark this time.

        http://www.wsj.com/articles/on-lawmakers-agenda-raise-the-debt-ceiling-1441910479

  3. johngalt says:

    Trevor Noah, on his debut on the Daily Show, just showed a clip of Marco Rubio announcing to the Value Voters Summit that Boehner was resigning, upon which the audience burst into applause. Noah explained the freeze-framed “WTF just happened” look on Rubio’s face as him not being used to applause. In actuality, I think it was the utter shock of a bunch of Republicans cheering the demise of a pretty conservative (though not insane) Republican.

    Chris wrote: “I can tell you with some confidence that major Republican thinkers are only just beginning to appreciate the enormity of what we’ve unleashed. And they are still for the most part in denial about it.”

    Rubio shouldn’t be this naive, but he seemed to be in that moment.

  4. BigWilly says:

    I’ve connected with the Spring Branch Republicans (that’s the brand used for my neighborhood) on Facebook. This popped up recently.

    http://www.gregtraviscampaign.com/recent_news

    Seems like the TX GOP can be pretty serious when it needs to be. I don’t see any frivolous positions anywhere in Travis’ material.

  5. RightonRush says:

    Tom Price is a member of the Tnuts caucus. This is gonna get messy.

    “Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) gained two big endorsements in the race for House majority leader, the number two slot in House leadership, on Monday, according to Politico.

    Both Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said they will back Price, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, over House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)”

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/paul-ryan-hensarling-tom-price-majority-leader

  6. Dennis says:

    I believe the New York Senate did something similar a few years ago.

    I think though that it’s not that moderates in the US House don’t have the guts. I think on the state level it is easier for these sort of things to happen because there is less chance of some kind of Club for Growth group coming after you. The moderates and pragmatic conservatives in the House might very well want to do something like this, but they know the minute they do something of what happened in Texas, a number of groups would go after them and they would get primaried. Look what happened to Bob Englis of South Carolina when he started talking favorably about climate change.

    Maybe such a thing could happen, but it will have to be a strong (meaning in a safe district) conservative who can challenge the far right. It can happen, but we have to find that person who can rise to challenge.

    • 1mime says:

      Welcome Dennis!

      Or, someone who doesn’t plan to run in ’16 ….. which could give everyone space to make longer term plans. Boehner must have smiled about all the scrambling going on in GOP circles this weekend….messed up their tailgating, that’s for sure!

      It will be a dogfight, that’s for sure.

  7. Anse says:

    I just get the impression that Boehner and other establishment Republicans spent the last two decades cultivating this conservative revolution without fully realizing the depravity of the party’s more extreme partisans. It’s like how the Islamic Revolution in Iran started out as a protest against a dreadfully corrupt and undemocratically appointed Shah, but then it kept going and turned into a theocratic movement. Which is why I do worry about these Tea Partiers. Where does it end? Boehner should have gone further with his comments. These are not just “false prophets”. They’re true believers who are on a mission and they don’t mind the prospect of fundamentally damaging the country, our political process, and our standing in the world to get whatever it is they want.

    • goplifer says:

      I can tell you with some confidence that major Republican thinkers are only just beginning to appreciate the enormity of what we’ve unleashed. And they are still for the most part in denial about it.

      One major factor seems to be the fact that the party’s “intellectual” leadership, people who write for the National Review or the Weekly Standard or work in DC think tanks have almost no exposure to the South or the intermountain West. Most of them come from the Northeast, get an education in the Northeast, then spend their professional lives in big cities.

      When they get some exposure to politics in Austin or Phoenix, they get it at an elite level – talking with aides to a governor or major leadership figures. They have never once in their lives been exposed to life or social interactions in Beaumont or Joplin or Montgomery or Knoxville. They just don’t understand the forces they are riding.

    • 1mime says:

      It didn’t take long for the House to thumb their collective noses on the first piece of legislation following Boehner’s resignation announcement. A portend of things to come?

      http://www.nationofchange.org/2015/09/28/house-votes-to-keep-epa-from-considering-costs-of-climate-change/

  8. johngalt says:

    No Republican speaker elected with only 48 GOP votes and the rest Democrats would have any legitimacy amongst his own caucus. He (I don’t even feel the need to write in “or she” here) will have to get a majority of his party’s votes, or he is dead on arrival.

    • 1mime says:

      Agree….which is fundamentally what The Hill link explains. Change may offer greater opportunity to the hard-core conservatives.

      Read this morning that Fiorina is now hard-lining to the point where she’s supporting water-boarding…..Guess F is trying to “man up”…

      • objv says:

        Mime, why would any woman have to “man up”? Fiorina has done just fine as a woman. Homer may have to assign gender sensitivity training classes to you. (-:

    • Owl of Bellaire says:

      I have to agree, unfortunately. If we had an *actual* parliamentary-type system with small parties accustomed to coalitions, rather than our existing, ossified duopoly accommodating sub-party factions, such a move might be possible.

      But part of what makes the “Texas model” possible is the temporary and obscure nature of our legislature. Washington D.C. is under media scrutiny 24/7. The Texas legislature only meets every two years, and engages in such energetic and high-speed sausage-making that it’s hard for the general populace to keep up, even if political news coverage were comprehensive and intelligible to the hoi polloi (which it generally isn’t). So there’s less time and opportunity to gin up concentrated, ongoing outrage against those who would stymie conservative dreams of utter domination.

      (Hi, gang! Long time no see, er, electronically engage with! I can’t guarantee to keep up with everybody, since I’m involved with a current production: *As Bees in Honey Drown* at Queensbury Theatre, out in Town & Country. We just had a lavishly generous review in the *Houston Press*, and have already seen packed audiences in the first weekend of our three-week run. If you were to attend, you’d probably figure out, using existing info, who I am from looking over the bios in the program. If so, stick around for a few minutes after curtain and say hello!)

      • Turtles Run says:

        Welcome back and a good date night idea with the wife.

      • 1mime says:

        Owl, good to hear from you! I’ve missed your sage repartee. As a Democrat, it’s even more difficult to follow TX governance as I am not in the “loop” and so have to depend upon news print media for details. Good luck with your play…sounds fascinating. I missed the review but will try to dig it out of H.C. archives. Read the Wiki synopsis and it looks like a real charmer…Break a leg, Owl!

        Oh, and all that TX political obscurity? It isn’t accidental, eh? Lots of shenanigans going on, just needs more exposure – which, of course, is exactly your point.

      • objv says:

        Owl, I hate to admit it, but I’ve missed your comments. I’m glad that you are keeping busy and out of trouble. If I were in the Houston area, I’d definitely come out and see you in your latest production.

  9. MarkkI says:

    I think the comparison between the Texas Speaker and his national counterpart suffers from the absence of one major factor: the toxic environment created by the national right-wing media. Sure, Texas has its equivalent, but I doubt it can mobilize the same degree of opposition proportionally as can Rush, Fox, et. al. If Boehner’s successor were to adopt this model, he or she would face a level of opposition that would make the climate Boehner faced look like affection. This would be true as well for anyone who would support the effort, effectively making the right-wing media the equivalent of extra-institutional whips forcing members to toe the line lest they be primaried out of existence.

    • goplifer says:

      I would argue that the dynamics actually run in the opposite direction. At the national level you have a much broader Republican base on which to draw from support. There are Republican members of Congress from New York and Illinois and California. The media climate in Texas is far more concentrated and toxic than at the national level.

      This hasn’t happened because no one has really wanted to do it yet. Probably still won’t happen before the ’16 election.

      • Markk says:

        The media climate in Texas may be more toxic, but my point is that it is less influential at the state level than its counterpart is nationally. After all, the “broader base” argument is more true of the extremist wing right now; the national media outlets of a nationally-syndicated radio show or a Breitbart.com world draw much more attention proportionally than a local broadcaster can to local races. Until a “new GOP” structure of equal resources emerges to counterbalance that influence, I don’t see career-minded Republican congressmen having much incentive to buck the extremists.

      • 1mime says:

        Media exposure – so essential to the political process. Conservatives have been very astute in their recognition of the value of controlling airwaves, optics and print media as a means of controlling message. (Planned Parent video anyone?) Turn on daytime radio and you will find a dearth of liberal radio stations. Media moguls like Rupert Murdoch clearly understand this potential and to their credit, have pursued their reach into every corner of the media market – especially in the political arena. This is especially dangerous for those whose self education is sated with the likes of Limbaugh and FOX news.

        Against this structural prop of conservative media dominance, D.C. politics plays out. Every photo op, every word uttered is carefully parsed for greatest impact. It stokes egos and punishes an errant slip of the tongue. It relentlessly manipulates public opinion. Politics has simply become a stage upon which elected officials act out their parts. Is it any wonder that they have so little interest, time, or desire to actually manage the business of the nation?

        We are in for some pretty ugly visuals in the next week as Congress struggles to agree upon leadership and an agenda. There will be lots of horse trading going on amidst token legislating. It is going to be really, really bad theater.

      • Markk says:

        That’s another good point mime, and that points to two other differences between the national and state/local environments. The first is that state and local politics don’t get the sustained attention that national politics do, which gives them more latitude to operate free from external pressure. Second, state and local figures simply don’t face the same pervasive media environment as their national counterparts. There just isn’t the echo chamber of multiple media outlets reverberating the same message about local issues at the local level, so their ability to extent the same sort of influence at that level is much less. A message on one local radio show may be damaging to a local candidate’ standing, but if it isn’t repeated on every other media outlet it doesn’t resonate as much for voters.

  10. 1mime says:

    Things may get harder before they can get better…Guess everyone is reading the tea leaves differently….

    http://thehill.com/homenews/news/255045-right-sees-power-grow-with-end-of-boehner-era

  11. flypusher says:

    “Under Boehner, Republicans in the House continued and even expanded a principle developed under the previous Republican speaker, Denny Hastert that blocked efforts at bipartisan lawmaking. Under the Hastert Rule, the use of Democratic votes to advance legislation was taboo. Almost nothing was allowed to pass unless it could be passed on the strength of Republican votes.”

    That rule needs to go into the political dustbin, along with the practice of attaching unrelated riders to bills.

    • 1mime says:

      Hastert is in some deep stuff of his own making. Maybe what comes around does go around occasionally

      Add to your list of rules that should die, the Senate “hold” and committee chair refusal to bring up legislation for an up or down vote in committee (Ex-Im Bank, etc)-and that goes for both parties.

      Have you noticed that Strauss is not in the limelight? You never hear much about him in general news…which speaks well for him. My vote for even a good Repub like Strauss would depend upon who is competition is…He does live in the same political area that the Castro brothers inhabit….Now, if Strauss would run against Cornyn or Cruz, he’d get my vote in a NY minute!

  12. flypusher says:

    Joe Strauss is one of the rare TX GOPers I would actually vote for (if I were in his district).

  13. Griffin says:

    “A potential Speaker who could line up significant, though perhaps not unanimous support among Democrats, perhaps 170 of the 188, would only need the support of 48 Republicans to win the gavel.”

    It would be much easier to get that much Democratic support than to get that much Republican support. Due to the Iron Law of Institutions those Republicans don’t want to risk getting primaried even if it means the party as a whole suffers. The Democrats have nothing to lose though and would probably support a “moderate” Republican.

    I know you bring up the “extremes” of both parties but there is no organized far-left in the Democratic Party. It’s the much more traditional model of the occasional wackaloon like Sheila Jackson Lee being in a district where they can’t primary her (like they did Cynthia Mckinney) but there is no organization/numbers among the moonbats. Even the Progressive Faction currently championed by Sanders would be considered center-left in most developed countries. So the Democratic support would be easy enough to garner but Republican politicians would cut off their arms before being seen shaking hands with the Democrats because they would face a challenge from their right, which is especially dangerous during a midterm (it would take awhile for this model to take hold if it could) where only the base of the base shows up to vote.

    • 1mime says:

      I’m not so worried about getting the Dem votes to help elect a Republican who is not hard-core. Lifer did address that point. It’s the actual governing I’m thinking of…guess I didn’t make that clear. If moderate Republicans in the base remain in their “duck and cover” mode, the only voices that will be heard are the same ones who are raising hell right now. It doesn’t matter perceptually if they constitute merely a “faction”, this faction has been wagging the dog pretty good for a while. Where I agree completely with Lifer is that someone in Republican leadership is going to have to begin governing smarter. If the factions remain but can be corralled, it is going to require more skill than Boehner demonstrated. What I am not sure about is that constituents who vote Republican are going to step up and speak out and support more rational governance from “their” party….getting past the “if” and into the “when”. If they don’t, it will make it very hard for even the best strategist to be successful as Speaker.

      Think about the fact that no budget has been approved; the debt ceiling has not been debated; critical funding bills for highways haven’t been passed; Banking Committee action on the Ex-Im Bank has not been addressed; the debate on PP hasn’t occurred; and that wee little 2016 election hasn’t been held (and I’ve probably left out a ton). Lotsa stuff needs to happen – some of it quickly. The threats against McConnell may not be as real as they were against Boehner (principally due to number of Senate Dems), but that could yet combust.

      For a party which likes to describe themselves as efficient and effective, as well as solid business proponents, Republicans seem to have great difficulty in governing.

  14. 1mime says:

    The Texas model, while it may function more effectively than our Congress – principally due to the skills of Joe Strauss as noted, does not compare on a percentage basis with the split in Congress. There may be strategically rewarded Democrats in the TX Legislature but their numbers are small. I do not follow the legislative process closely enough to figure out what role the few Democrats play in keeping the ship of state from sinking, but they don’t seem to have much real power.

    When I heard about Boehner’s resignation, I also thought of Strauss and how he has managed to keep things functioning. Don’t forget that the economy of Texas has been robust up to now which may have made Texas look like it was more effectively managed . Governing is much harder when money gets tight, which it will given the state’s dependence upon the oil and gas industry. TX also has pending a major lawsuit over funding of public schools. That outcome could pose an additional financial squeeze on the budget that will squeeze other operations that hither-to-fore have not had to compete for funding. Given the yahoos we have in leadership and in the Legislature, the sane ones are gonna have their work cut out for them.

    Nancy Pelosi has saved Boehner’s ass before and she will doubtless recognize both the need and the opportunity to better position the Democrats in this new environment. IF – the environment is led by a rational conservative rather than someone from the hard right who cares less about governing than winning, there is a chance we’ll see some actual progress through concensus. No one can be sure of what will happen until leadership is “settled” – given the tempest within the Republican Party. Add to the mix the looming election of 2016 and it will be a most interesting process to watch. Maybe not a happy one, but it will be interesting. Compromise is an important part of governing, it just hasn’t been tried in a long time. Maybe now is the time. Or, as Lisa Falkenberg stated in her column today: instead of asking “if”, we need to start asking “when”? I’m with Lisa.

  15. stephen says:

    I often wondered why Speaker Boehner did not do what you proposed. We need risk taker politicians. Like other fields leaders cannot really accomplish anything if they are not. Surely there are enough sane Republicans and Democrats to make a majority. We just need someone willing to do this tactic and enough member’s of Congress willing to take the risk of working together like that. Let the RINOs and DINOs reign !

    • 1mime says:

      Stephen brings up a good point for you, Lifer. There are 247 Republican members in the House, which means the balance – 188 – are Democrat. A simple majority is 218, which Republicans already meet with 29 votes to spare. There are approximately 40 Freedom Caucus members (hard right) and about 70 strong conservatives. How do you flip the numbers to make governing possible? (I haven’t factored in the filibuster or super majority.)

  16. csarneson says:

    Which of the GOP reps could pull this off? Peter King is the first one to come to mind. He’s still a conservative republican but has expressed disgust at the bomb-throwers.

    • goplifer says:

      That’s the nut of the problem, really. I can’t think of anyone. Peter King is relatively pragmatic for that bunch, but he’s still pretty loopy, way too loopy to manage an institution as complex as Congress.

      There are a handful of moderates like Bob Dold, but they are in the habit of keeping their heads down. Not one of them has the juevos to attempt something like this.

      I don’t think its going to happen this time. Most likely some leadership figure slightly friendlier to the Tea Party than Boehner was will win the job. And he’ll fail to get anything done, and be removed after the ’16 election. What happens then might be more interesting.

      • 1mime says:

        Is there a Republican (other than Boehner) who doesn’t plan to run again in 2016 who has the ability and might get support purely because it’s a one year play?

      • Griffin says:

        Wow I just read about Bob Dold. A decent, reasonable guy but he’d probably have to wait at least two election cycles before he had a shot at gaining power in the GOP. I’m dying to see someone just like him on that GOP primary debate stage (without him compromising his principles) if only to see how the far-right would react to him. They’d tear the poor guy apart I suppose. The “problem” with good, reasonable people is that they aren’t as vicious/ruthless as extremists so when they’re outnumbered they don’t stand a chance.

      • Shiro17 says:

        And that is a huge problem nowadays since so many people equate fire and flamboyance with effectiveness. They don’t really pay attention if anything gets done (unless it’s something that affects them personally) but they do notice nice speeches and catchy quips.

      • WX Wall says:

        I actually was thinking exactly of Bob Dold 🙂 His problem isn’t getting primaried by a tea partier, it’s keeping his job in a democratic district. He and brad schneider are basically 50/50 and each election it’s a coin toss which one wins (actually Dold wins the off years, and schneider wins the presidential years, due to democratic turnout issues).

        He will likely lose his seat this election (being a presidential year) mainly because as much as he presents himself as a moderate republican and is a good fit for his district, the republicans and independents in his district can’t stomach the tea party, which he is guilty of by association. If he does something dramatic by making a move for the speakership with a bipartisan coalition, he might actually have a better chance of keeping his seat. Heck, plenty of democrats in his district would consider the pork barrel advantages of having the speakership over the relatively little policy differences between him and schneider.

        The question is can he get ~30 Republicans? I think he can. We always focus on the Repubs in mortal fear of getting primaried by the tea party, but there are plenty of republicans in NY, CA, IL, (+suburban districts in other states like PA) as you point out where there are still moderate republicans.

        At the very least, he has little to lose. He will forever flip/flop with Schneider until the democratic demographic wave moves to 51% Schneider at which point he’ll be done. Unless he does something to differentiate himself from the rest of the moderate Republicans who keep voting with the tea party once they get to Washington (regardless of their true political beliefs).

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