In 2013, expect a seismic shift in Republican leadership. Ideological infighting, mishandled budget negotiations and a dismal performance by the GOP presidential nominee sets the stage for a Republican phoenix—new leaders will eventually emerge from the ashes. Give it time. The GOP is still self-destructing.
John Boehner’s speakership, despite pragmatism and good intentions, will end by resignation, ouster from the Republican House caucus, or his party’s loss in the 2014 midterm elections. Rep. , the darling of fiscal hawks, will have his star power eclipsed by Sen. Marco Rubio. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will either face a rough upcoming primary or will have his toughest general election.
Boehner has done an admirable job herding cats, but it hasn’t been enough. He’s had little success reasoning with some caucus members that the legislative process has never worked well with a “my way or the highway” mindset.
Boehner’s own party balked at his proposal to raise taxes on Americans making more than $1 million. The speaker scrapped a vote on the proposal after realizing he didn’t have the support within his own party to pass it. Conservative pundits were scathing in their critique of Boehner. He is now very weakened as speaker.
The media hasn’t had much to say about the low profile of Ryan, the once much touted numbers guy. Although Ryan is still a favorite among the party faithful, his star may be dimming since serving as the GOP vice-presidential nominee. Rubio has already started to position himself for a White House run.
During the 2012 campaign, Rubio shined as a thoughtful, substantive, reasonable conservative. His appeal to Latino and Hispanic voters will be critical in the 2016 election. It might be Rubio who emerges as the voice of a fractured party.
Added to the drama is McConnell, who has consistently stumbled in deficit negotiations, drawing unflattering attention to his cantankerous attitude and modest statesmanship. His latest proposal was to link a tax hike with cuts in Social Security. McConnell quickly withdrew the proposal. It was another embarrassment for the GOP after Boehner’s miscalculation.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) didn’t know why the plan was even offered by McConnell. “Damned if I know,” came McCain’s crisp response when asked why McConnell made such an offer.
McConnell in his upcoming re-election campaign will have to face the wrath of a fellow Republican senator from his home state of Kentucky, Rand Paul. McConnell did everything possible to see Paul, son of the popular libertarian-Republican presidential candidate, defeated in a GOP primary. Independent of his legislative record, the very vulnerable McConnell should anticipate payback.
If there is a last minute deficit deal, it won’t matter for the Republican Party. The short-term damage through the midterm elections has been done. In the long term, however, chaos, infighting and self-evaluation will, in theory, encourage a pragmatic self-evaluation devoid of the drama militant ideologues have infused into the legislative process.
Will Rubio be the party’s next phoenix? Or will others emerge? Time will tell, but a new phoenix will be born.
Paul Jesep is an attorney, policy analyst, and author of Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically; Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It; and Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith without Wisdom.