Over a century ago, some congressional Republicans joined with the minority party Democrats to rebel against Joseph Cannon, a Speaker of the House with an actual (if still metaphorical) iron-fist over the policy-making process.
The anti-Cannon insurgents hoped to refashion the Rules Committee and remove Cannon from servering on it. From Susan M. Miller and Peverill Squire’s “Who Rebelled? An Analysis of the Motivations of the Republicans Who Voted Against Speaker Cannon”:
For the progressive core of the insurgency against Speaker Cannon, our analysis documents that policy differences largely drove their behavior. Although they were disgruntled about committee assignments and the undemocratic manner in which Cannon controlled the legislative agenda, their real grievances were directed at the way the House operated in a broad sense. The core insurgents believed the system was rigged against their policy preferences and that it prevented majorities from working their will. Voters back home seemed to be on their side.
Fastforward to today. While the grievances remain the same, it’s not progressives, but the right-wing whack-jobs who seem able to muster enough angst for a revolution. Now, Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) has filed a motion to vacate the chair and remove John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. With our increasingly internally homogenous congressional districts, today’s insurgents can probably still claim to be doing their voters justice. But oddly, it sure seems like this legislative weapon/temper tantrum is aimed at one of the only people who focuses on keeping the G.O.P. from shooting itself in the foot on a regular basis. Of course, Boehner has escaped conservative onslaughts before, even this year. But attempts to dump him as Speaker make for good TV and headlines, so why stop now?
Besides allowing for ample opportunity to preen for conservative talk radio, it’s hard to see how a more conservative House (or Senate) leadership would accomplish anything given the current occupant of the White House and our divided government. But like Donald Trump and his devastation of any hope for decorum in the Republican presidential nomination contest, Meadows and his would be coup co-signers will hopefully help drive the 2016 Democratic turnout machine and remind the dwindling number of moderates out there that the Republican Party has pretended to be anti-establishment for so long, they’ve left themselves without the ability to govern.
So here’s to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Mark Meadows – A.K.A. The Committee to Elect Hillary Clinton.