Now that we're all settled in with the federal government shutdown and marking the calendar for when we smack our heads on the debt ceiling, let's take a step back and gather up the view. Everyone's pretty much got the gist of what's happening: A Tea Party minority wing of the GOP House Caucus is holding the global economy hostage.
Actually, they're holding John Boehner's Speakership hostage.
The thinking goes like this: If Boehner allows the Senate's clean continuing resolution to go to the floor (where it would be overwhelmingly passed with probably as many as 375 votes in favor and fewer than 60 opposed) then the Tea Partiers will have a big, ragey meltdown. And who even really knows their capacity for Tea-tantrumming if Congress votes to keep the U.S. Government solvent?
The bottom line is this: Boehner thinks the radical wing of the GOP will pull its backing for his Speakership if he doesn't show them some proper respect. If they're willing to let the U.S. government default on its debt then the sky's the limit, right? Why wouldn't they spark an intraparty mutiny?
They're not to be trusted . . . which is why John Boehner is correct to not trust them. (Serious question: Would you risk your job over this?)
The House Speaker position exists by Constitutional decree which means it's technically a non-partisan role. Hypothetically, Socialist Party member Bernie Sanders could have been chosen as Speaker back when he was in Congress (He's now a Senator, and an 'Independent.'). The fact that the Speaker always ends up being a member of the majority party has only to do with the way members of Congress choose to function. Political parties, lest we forget, aren't even acknowledged by the U.S. Constitution.
The House is presently divided with the GOP having a 32 seat majority over the Democrats. This means the Tea Party wing, which does have an impressive track record of cohesiveness, could leave Boehner whipping in the wind. Any one member of Congress can call a vote for a new Speaker. How that would play out is anybody's guess. There's even a strong case to be made for Nancy Pelosi emerging with the job (which, some believe, the extreme right would actually love since a minority party Speaker would give them an even more dystopian chamber in which to unleash havoc).
So far, Democrats have been sitting idly and enjoying their front row seats to the dysfunction across the aisle [Schadenfreude is a dish best served cold.] But perhaps we should be looking at this mess another way. If we can blame the Tea Partiers for recklessly endangering the U.S. economy, then what about the Democrats? Are they culpable as well? Consider the possibility that they are.
The reality is that Nancy Pelosi has the ability to stop the government shutdown and put an end to this round of "Shall we default?" right now. John Boehner is afraid to let the Senate's bill go to a vote because he doesn't trust that members of his own party will permit him to keep his job. But what about the Democrats? Should they be allowed any comfort when the stakes are economic armageddon? Should any form of partisan gamesmanship be permissible?
Nancy Pelosi could hold her caucus together with a podium promise to back a Boehner Speakership if he's challenged from within his own party. She brings 200 votes to the table. Along with 170 or so sane Republicans, that would silence the loudest Tea Partier with extreme prejudice. Unconventional? Yes. But is anyone really keeping score on that front now? We're actually having discussions . . . in public . . . about whether or not to crash the New York Stock Exchange and massively devalue the dollar. At what point do we demand our legislators throw all partisan behavior out the door for the greater good?
Like it or not, John Boehner deserves the Speakership. Congressional districts that look like a bunch of toddler drawings may have gotten him there, but toddler drawings are the law of the land. The Speaker of the House may not technically be a partisan position, but it's effectively been one for decades. The GOP has 232 of the chamber's 435 seats; thus, if not Boehner, then it would presumably be another Republican.
But who? Eric Cantor? Congratulations on making the whole show even more Kardashianized.
But even if a Tea Party schisming took us completely around the bend into totally uncharted territory, would Nancy Pelosi even want the job under those conditions? It's a tough enough gig when you have a majority. How would she staff committees? If over half the body determines it doesn't need to listen to her, would she even be able to convene a quorum? The next debt ceiling debate? Check out CNN's flashy new 'End of Days' lead in graphic!
If we get to Default Eve on October 16th then failure to act makes devils of them all, especially those, like Nancy Pelosi, who have the clear ability to end it. I have no sympathy for John Boehner. He's made this bed by defining his position on the simplistic merits of opposing anything and everything President Obama wants. Nothing would make me happier than to see him head back to Ohio and golf before being humiliated by having to take a seven figure lobbying job.
But not like this.
Wanting to still be Speaker is the distinct privilege of someone who actually is Speaker. So John Boehner needs to keep the title or we're all doomed. He is, by far, the lesser evil when one weighs the alternatives.
So, Congresswoman Pelosi, what say you? Ready to get creative? It's not every day that you get to save the world!