By Uche Onyebadi
LAST week, Americans witnessed a bout of unusual political drama. With majority control of the both houses of Congress, the thinking when Republicans swept into power in last year’s mid-term election was that they had formed a formidable bloc that will govern as their hearts desired.
Some political pundits were even singing an early requiem for President Obama because it was adjudged that with their majority, Republicans will have the power to thwart each and everything the president did, to the point that Americans will see an early lame-duck presidency and a severely frustrated president at the White House.
That political calculus missed a vital input or just misread the dynamics of the new power the Republicans had gained through the polls. The mistake was the assumption that finally, there was unity among Republicans and all of them in and out of Congress had the same agenda: to make America so ungovernable for President Obama and his lieutenants thathe would go crawling to them with promises to repeal his signature legislation, Obamacare, if only Congress would give him some form of political ventilator machine.
Well, it turned out not to be exactly what happened. Sooner than later, Speaker John Boehner was to discover that he was just the leader of a reluctant and severely disunited army. Each move he made brought him scorn and disdain from the core of his party; those people who believed that being Republican only meant shutting down the government and no form of compromise or cooperation whatsoever with the Democrats led by Obama. And the more speaker attempted to assuage their feelings, the more they saw him as impotent and a sell-out unworthy of his position.
So, it came to pass that Speaker Boehner almost became a robot and prisoner in his own house. Even when he unilaterally invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the house, an action that was spiteful of President Obama, his core opponents were rarely impressed. They yearned for his political blood on their spongy altar of conservatism. They would have nothing to do with him.
Sensing that the atmosphere of speakership had turned sour, Speaker Boehner simply kept his final plan secret until his last big assignment was accomplished. And so when Speaker Boehner successfully accomplished hosting his visitor from the Vatican, Pope Francis, he launched his offensive against his opponents. Late last month, he surprised everyone by announcing that he not only was quitting his position as speaker, he was also leaving the House entirely. He had had enough from the political coup plotters he had mistaken for friends and allies.
But, if Boehner thought that by resigning he was going to leave his huge office at the capitol and enjoy a quiet retirement, it was not to be. Another page in the Republican Party’s political drama-book was to unfold.
The man who was tipped to take over as speaker, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, House majority leader and Boehner’s preferred successor, also threw in the towel. He stepped aside, amidst unsubstantiated suspicions that he had more skeletons in his political cupboard than many knew about. Hardly does anyone buy his reasons for quitting, which included his assertion that the Republican Party needed a new face.
Since Rep. McCarthy announced his surprise decision to quit, Republicans have been unable to find a credible candidate to replace him. There are behind-the-curtain attempts by out-going Speaker Boehner to persuade their party’s rising star, Rep. Paul Ryan to vie for the office.
Party’s rising star
Former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney who had chosen Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, is also known to nudge Ryan to run. Other top-notch Republicans have also added their voices, but it appears that Rep. Ryan is still adamant that he would rather keep his position as the chair of the powerful House Budget Committee.
Fact is, Rep. Paul Ryan knows that being Speaker might signal the end of his well-known ambition to run for the presidency at some future date. Anyone who becomes speaker, will inherit Boehner’s fate: he or she must deal with Obama and make concessions that will most certainly trigger the anger of the same small and far-right ideologues in the Republican Party. Once branded a sell-out, that person might well consider his or her political ambitions over.
Rep. Ryan appears not to be ready to end his political ambition in order to become speaker, a position that might disappear should Democrats once more regain majority in the House of Representatives.
The big irony in all this is that as the political uncertainty continues, guess who the die-hard Republicans would still have as their Speaker? John Boehner.
Meanwhile, as Republicans wonder how to wriggle out of the quagmire they created for themselves, Democrats are enjoying the political spectacle. Later today, their candidates for the presidency will face one another in their first of six debates. Their picture of a united front will certainly contrast with the broken pieces of China which the Republican Party is increasingly striving so hard to resemble.