Conservative enemy No. 1.

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Why Are Conservatives Bashing Congress?

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Bobby Jindal, looking for a way to stand out from the Republican presidential pack, has opened fire on John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

My first reaction was that it's probably smart to appeal to activists in this way. Plenty of Republicans think the House speaker is a squish, and they’ll soon think the same of the Senate majority leader, too.

But my second reaction is: What’s up with Republicans and congressional leaders?

Most citizens have no idea who Boehner and McConnell are -- or Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Yet Republicans have not only aimed enormous firepower at those Democratic leaders, but a fair amount at Boehner, too. And the activists know all about that (or they know what they’ve heard). Sure, Democrats attacked Newt Gingrich, but he was an exceptionally high-profile House speaker. Republicans seem to do it a lot, and have for a long time:

It’s just weird that a candidate for president would believe there’s mileage to be had from personally attacking his own party’s congressional leaders, even if his instincts were correct. Again,  most voters don’t pay enough attention to Congress to know who those leaders are, and Jindal doesn’t have (or identify) any differences on policy.

Of course, any Republican candidate wants to be the True Conservative in contrast to all the Republicans in Name Only and the squishes. But why the focus on congressional leaders? My only guess is that it has to do with showing how savvy you are. Any Republican can bash Barack Obama. Maybe a Republican can show real acuity by appreciating attacks on relatively obscure figures, and that creates a demand for Jindal and others to fill. But that's just a guess. Any ideas?

  1. One very likely way to proceed on the Homeland Security funding bill, for example, is for McConnell to put a "clean" bill on the Senate floor, offer the immigration policy riders from the House as amendments with a 60 vote threshold, and then pass the clean bill when those amendments are defeated. Everyone gets to vote how they want and the bill gets passed (thus preventing or, if it takes a while, ending a DHS shutdown), but McConnell will be the villain for conservatives.

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To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net