A Lesson in Picking Winnable Fights
There's no need to die on every hill.
Intraparty disagreements are hardly unusual in Congress, but when bickering moves from behind closed doors to the House floor, news is made. And Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) captured headlines this week by filing a motion to “vacate” the speaker’s chair — occupied, of course, by John Boehner.
In the motion, Meadows says Boehner has attempted to “consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 members of Congress and the people they represent.” In an interview with radio host Mark Levin, Meadows added that he hopes his “colleagues will see that there’s something inherently wrong with the leadership that we have and it’s time for a change.”
It’s no secret Boehner doesn’t claim the title of conservative darling. This past January, House Republicans staged the largest defection from a sitting speaker in at least a century, with 25 members, including Meadows, voting for someone other than Boehner. And last month, 34 Republicans bucked Boehner by opposing the rule to bring Barack Obama’s trade bill to the floor. In retaliation, three of those members were kicked off the House whip team, and Meadows was given the option of resigning his subcommittee chairmanship or being demoted.
While dozens were willing to break from Boehner in these votes, far fewer are willing to seek his ouster. Indeed, Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Ted Yoho (R-FL) are two of just a handful publicly to come out in support of Meadows, with Jones claiming that “too many times, [Boehner] has used that position to intimidate and coerce.”
Be that as it may, it’s for good reason that the ouster effort has received so little support, as it’s quite likely this conservative trio is hurting the cause more than helping it by working to remove Boehner right now. It’s one thing to seek meaningful and substantive change armed with a plan of action and a roadmap for moving forward; it’s another to come out with guns-a-blazin’ and no strategy for moving forward following a loss, let alone a win (which, incidentally, isn’t going to happen here).
Now, lest you stop reading, fearing a forthcoming endorsement of Boehner’s leadership or a call for conservatives not to rock the political boat, don’t worry, neither is going to happen. But rocking the boat so you get thrown off while the establishment remains standing does not make a strategic — or effective — approach. If anything, it stages a dog-and-pony show for the media with ticket proceeds benefitting the Left.
Meanwhile, although conservatives’ hopes that House business would shift their way following the 2010 and 2014 election waves haven’t fully materialized, the fact that more and more Republicans are willing to stand their ground against the establishment is a good sign and a clear indicator that the conservative voice in Congress is growing stronger. And Meadows’ effort is one of those signs.
By all means, House conservatives should continue to buck leadership when leadership compromises conservative values, marginalizes the concerns of their grassroots base or succumbs to the Left’s propaganda machine. The leadership is certainly guilty of those things. And by all means, House conservatives should continue to seek a conservative speaker when the opportunity next arises.
Strategy, however, means knowing which shots to take and which to hold — not because they’re not clear shots but because, in the long run, they don’t contribute to taking new ground. Conservatives are justifiably angry at the unwillingness of the leadership to stand strong on principle, but the rush to die on every hill is self-defeating.
At the end of the day, Speaker Boehner will emerge from Meadows’ effort unscathed, while the Leftmedia will have been handed a story packaged complete with a bow. In the fight for true change, conservatives can do better.