by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Some Republican House members complain that Boehner and his lieutenants failed to deliver on the party’s promises to replace Obamacare and the other bêtes noires of right-thinking Republicans. They believe that the Republicans’ clear majority in the House should have been able to pass bills on their hot-button issues and deposit them on the President’s desk for enactment.
A commentator sympathetic to such rebels said this about Boehner and his era: “Where he failed was in never implementing an agenda and a strategy to win as many battles as they could. One can be forgiven for trying and failing, but not trying is the unforgivable sin.”
There are four important things wrong with this idea. In reverse order of importance: The Republicans do not have the votes to override a veto; President Barack Obama would veto anything that Republicans would really like; nothing would reach the President’s desk, because bills that important would be filibustered in the Senate, where it takes 60 votes to get anything done and the Republicans have but 54.
The fourth and most important reason: As Boehner realized, politicians are rewarded only for their victories, if at all. The American people despise losers, even while commending their principles. Losing honorably by holding fast to one’s principles is the path to more losing.
Boehner tried to help his friends avoid catastrophic losses, but they thought he had gone over to the enemy.
The speaker may also have realized that core Republican Party principles are not shared by a majority of Americans any more than the people share the principles of the Democratic party base. Most American voters are greedy pragmatists. They want to know what’s in it for them.