"They Wanted to Blow Up Washington": John Boehner's Memoir Describes a Tea Party Tactically Indistinguishable From Modern Leftists

John Boehner
"Incrementalism? Compromise? That wasn’t their thing. A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected."
This is how Republican former House Speaker John Boehner, in an excerpt of his new memoir adopted for Politico Magazine, describes a large part of the freshman class of Republican members of the House that were elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010. Boehner served in the top role from 2011 until October of 2015, when he was deposed by a rebellion among these same Tea Party ranks.

But let’s be honest. If we did not know the source or the subject of that comment from the former Speaker, it would be difficult to tell whether it was directed toward the Tea Party - born of the racist lie about President Barack Obama’s birthplace and the precursor to Donald Trump’s MAGA movement - or modern leftists. What, if anything, is different about the modern far left movement that seeks to burn down the Democratic Party in order to make it submit to their will?

The similarities between the two extremes don’t stop with their aversion to compromise. Replace ‘Hannity’ in the following quote with ‘Chris Hayes,’ and observe how it fits the radical left like a tailor-made suit.
"Some of them, well, you could tell they weren’t paying attention because they were just thinking of how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night. [...] These guys wanted 100 percent every time. In fact, I don’t think that would satisfy them, because they didn’t really want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades."
The insatiable hunger for limelight. The turning of everything into an outrage and a fundraising tool. The ‘my way or highway,’ ‘with us or against us’ attitude. The perpetual search for a fight just to pick one. The aversion to the complicated and thankless work of legislation. The fist-pumping for purity. It all reeks of Berniebro energy, socialist tantrums, and gatekeeper progressivism.

Speaking of gatekeeper politics, Boehner faced that too. Just as Bernie Sanders ran two presidential campaigns geared not to govern but to weed out ‘impure’ progressives, so too had Boehner faced a right wing hell bent on defining and limiting conservatism not as a set of principles but as a set of responses to specific people. Before Donald Trump would emerge as the prohibitive favorite for the position of Tea Party cult leader, their burning repulsion to Barack Obama was their first - and only - defining characteristic.

Says Boehner (emphasis mine),
"To them, my talk of trying to get anything done made me a sellout, a dupe of the Democrats, and a traitor. Some of them had me in their sights from day one. They saw me as much of an “enemy” as the guy in the White House. Me, a guy who had come to the top of the leadership by exposing corruption and pushing conservative ideas. Now I was a “liberal collaborator.” So that took some getting used to. What I also had not anticipated was the extent to which this new crowd hated—and I mean hated—Barack Obama."
It is absolutely breathtaking to be reminded of the extent to which the ideologue left at the time ascribed these same traits - those of a sellout, a dupe, a traitor, an enemy, a collaborator - to Barack Obama, a Black man who’d come from the ranks of community organizers and had built a deep bench of progressive accomplishments. They - aptly characterized by Robert Gibbs as the ‘Professional Left’ - hated President Obama as much as anyone on the right.

Leftists trashed President Obama on health care (some even accused him of having secret deals industry), banking reform, and even raising taxes on the rich, all on the charge that he was a traitor to the cause who sought compromise in order to make progress, thus refusing to wave a presidential magic wand and make everything perfect in an instant.

Blowing it all up - in the hopes that a phoenix of utopia will rise from the ashes - is as attractive an idea to right wing insurrectionists as to far left ideological groups.

But it’s not just ‘movement’ people. The uncanny parallels extend all the way down to wild-eyed crazies (Boehner’s term) in the Congress itself who demanded things of the Speaker, and when they didn’t get it (because they were unserious juniors).
"[Michele] Bachmann, who had represented Minnesota's 6th Congressional District since 2007 and made a name for herself as a lunatic ever since, came to meet with me in the busy period in late 2010 after the election. She wanted a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee in the House." 
And when Boehner told Bachmann ‘no’? She pressed the point and threatened to go to the press.

This is reminiscent of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s battle to try to gain a seat on the House Energy & Commerce Committee this year. Ocasio-Cortez lost her bid, embarrassingly badly, in a vote of the Democratic Steering Committee, largely due to her Bachmann-esque qualities of trashing colleagues in the party and refusing to be a team player when it comes to both primaries and fundraising.

It is even a little reminiscent of the recent situation with Rep. Katie Porter, who was not granted a second waiver to serve on the Financial Services Committee after she had herself preferred - and was assigned to - two other committees.

The purist left's media arms saw both the situations with Ocasio-Cortez and Porter as the fault of the ‘establishment’ trying to keep progressives down, much as Bachmann had threatened Boehner the right wing media would do to him.

Here’s where the difference is, however: unlike Boehner, the Democratic leadership has not laid down and caved to our purists. Fearing retribution from Bachmann’s media allies, John Boehner pacified her with a seat on the House Intelligence Committee. Speaker Pelosi made no such overtures to Ocasio-Cortez or Porter when they failed at their respective committee bids. John Boehner lacked the spine to stand up to his crazy caucus. Nancy Pelosi does not.

The Tea Party, and later Trump’s MAGA movement, emerged from a longstanding tradition of Republican politics: the Southern Strategy. Subtly or blatantly, the Republican party has sold racism since the enactment of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. They can’t exactly be surprised that a racist backlash to the country’s first Black president took over their party. The GOP had laid, in a term popular this week, the infrastructure for their inmates to take charge of the asylum.

Thankfully, no such long-term infrastructure exists on the left, and studies suggest that conservatives tend to be far more tribal than liberals. Those are the saving graces that has thus far kept the Democratic Party from tipping over to our own purists.

We need to keep it that way.

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