Since Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced his retirement at the end of last week, I have listened and read the cacophony of criticism against him, and the joy his resignation brings to some of the more extreme aspects of the conservative movement. Not that Mr. Boehner has been a great Speaker, but nor has he been the failure that some in our Party have tried to cast him as. I think in judging Mr. Boehner's performance as Speaker, one must recount the demands of conservatives from before the Republicans were given the majority in the House of Representatives.
The group that many see as the true conservatives in the party is the Tea Party. At its inception in the early part of 2009, when it was germinated by the words of Rick Santelli of CNBC, and spawned by the extreme actions of the new president, the Tea Party was about restraining federal spending. The name was an acronym that represented the words Taxed Enough Already. I supported the Tea Party and its goals of reigning in government spending.
Most conservatives will tell anyone who will listen that the Republicans were given the majority in the House in the 2010 mid-terms specifically to repeal ObamaCare. But the even larger issue at the time, for anyone who is interested in an accurate recounting of history, was the out-of-control spending by the federal government. The annual budget deficit was almost one and a half trillion dollars, with no end in sight. And President Obama and his Democrat majorities in both houses of congress were hell-bent on letting the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2011, which would have meant an immediate tax increase for 99% of working Americans.
In steps John Boehner as the newly elected Speaker of the House with a comfortable Republican majority in that body. Over the next four and a half years Mr. Boehner and his Republican caucus saved the Bush tax cuts from expiring, thus helping 99% of Americans to keep more of their own money and removing another threat to the economy from a president who seemed committed to destroying it. Mr. Boehner and his majority also did exactly what members of the Tea Party, et al were screaming for them to do, i.e. they cut the budget deficit by 70%, and cut federal spending the most any congress had since the Eisenhower administration.
The two aforementioned accomplishments should have been enough to at least garner Mr. Boehner a certain amount of respect from all Wings of his Party. The fact that he orchestrated 40 votes to repeal ObamaCare, passed over 300 pro-growth bills (80% of which had bi-partisan support), passed and got President Obama to sign the most far reaching anti-human trafficking bill ever, worked with President Obama to pass a trade bill which the president's own party was against as well as one of the most strident Democrat constituencies (the unions), and he stopped the president on legislation such as card check and carbon credits, should have earned him at least a competent grade from conservatives.
Some have criticized Mr. Boehner (as well as Mr. McConnell) for not defunding Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has been federally funded since 1970, and it is only since the surfacing of videos showing its practice of harvesting baby parts for sale that conservatives have been so vocally against its funding. The defunding battle is one in which there can not be success for conservatives until there is a Republican president who will not use his veto power against it. The fight to defund Planned Parenthood is a worthy battle, the strategy of allowing a government shut-down is not worthy of the fight. That is why the National Right to Life organization is against it.
The fulfillment of the original goals of the Tea Party, and their subsequent moving of the goal posts to ever more unrealistic goals, has come at a cost (at least in my mind) of their legitimacy as a voice for the conservative movement. They began on the Right side of the political ideology circle, but have moved so far Right on that circle that they now occupy a space on the Left side of it. We allow our emotions to dictate our politics at our own risk. And when we engage in the absolutism of making what is perfect the enemy of what is good, we hurt our cause and the cause of Liberty in this great country.