Republican Party in disarray as Boehner quits

The Republican Establishment, or whatever’s left of it, is under siege from within now more than ever.

Sometimes it’s whole lot better to be lucky than smart.

Hillary Clinton and her fellow Democrats must be feeling that way as they cherish the spectacle of Speaker John Boehner’s abrupt resignation, the latest course in a long feast of Republican cannibalism.

If – and it is an “if” – there is a bloody battle between the GOP right and far-right to succeed Boehner, the circus Donald Trump brought to the Republican presidential primaries will have another wild ring in Congress.   Even if Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California wins the speaker’s gavel without great bloodshed and infection, the Republicans will have a greater challenge convincing voters next November that they are not a party in disarray.

The hard truth, right now, is that in Congress, the Republicans are a party in disarray.

The Speaker has been fighting off a tea party type insurrection all year. And his is not the first scalp. Eric Cantor, Boehner’s top lieutenant and likely successor, lost his seat to an unknown archconservative last year. It is unlikely that anyone who would appease the party’s far right can actually get the votes of the rest of the caucus. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, has already said he doesn’t want the job.

“If today’s Republicans and conservatives consider John Boehner a squish and a wuss, it says volumes about how radicals have hijacked their party,” according to Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. “Boehner is a Reagan conservative, no moderate.”

Boehner, Cantor and their team, Ornstein said, “encouraged and incited the Tea Partyists in 2010 and after, thought they could co-opt them, and found they were the ‘co-op-tees’ instead.”

As if to prove the point, presidential candidate Ted Cruz was practically dancing on Boehner’s grave. He said it looks like Boehner “has cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi to fund the Obama administration for the rest of its tenure, to fund Obamacare, to fund executive amnesty, to fund Planned Parenthood, to fund implementation of this Iran deal” and plans “to land in a cushy K Street job.”

House conservatives were a tad more subdued, but many were delighted with Boehner’s downfall, convinced he didn’t have the moxie to fight President Obama. “He’s run circles around us since John Boehner was speaker of the House,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). “I think it’s a victory for the American people.”

It might at least be a victory for the federal government, in the short-term. Conservative Republicans have been willing to shut down the government next week as part of their crusade to defund Planned Parenthood. In light of Boehner’s resignation, the conservatives have given up on that for the time being  and won’t force a shut down. In past shutdowns, it has been Republicans in Congress that have taken the blame from voters, not the president.

But this truce is destined to be momentary. The chasm between Republican House members is deepening. Momentum is on the side of the conservative insurgents, who have very different views about party loyalty, the institutions of Congress and the path to the White House than their leaders.

If there is such a thing as a Republican Establishment in Congress right now, it is under siege from within more than ever.

“We don’t simply want to move the deck chairs around,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.)

Of course, the Titanic didn’t quite make it.

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