Boehner's Troubles and the Modern Speakership

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.
Read More.
a | A

1. I'll start with an excellent post from Sarah Binder at the Monkey Cage on how the change in House leadership probably doesn’t change anything.

2. Also read Josh Huder at Rule 22 about how John Boehner’s absence affects the rest of this Congress.

3. Elaine Kamarck at Brookings on the troubles of speakers of the House. I don’t agree with her at all about parties, but no major disagreement on the rest of her list. Still, worth noting: Speaker Nancy Pelosi did just fine despite these impediments. Because her Democrats weren’t dysfunctional.

4. Matt Dickinson, too, sees Boehner’s troubles as symptoms of the modern speakership.

5. At Brookings, Molly Reynolds takes an early look at the next shutdown showdown, now (tentatively) scheduled for December with a new speaker calling the shots for Republicans.

6. Tom Mann: “The chaos and dysfunctionality will continue until the Republican Party abandons its insurgency and once again aspires to pursue a conservative agenda within the framework of our Madisonian system.”

7. Meanwhile, Norm Ornstein looks at “a party that has gone from center-right to right-center to a place that is more radical than it is conservative.” This remains the crucial issue. The general problem with governing in Washington isn’t polarization, or even asymmetric polarization, with Republicans becoming more conservative than Democrats are liberal. All of that could work in the Madisonian system. Radicalism, however, with its refusal to compromise or to accept the legitimacy of others within the system, produces a dysfunctional party, Congress and government.

8. At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum translates Jeb Bush.

9. Good Ezra Klein item on Boehner’s strengths -- longer and more detailed than mine, and he beat me by more than half an hour, too. Only one quarrel. He says “the Speaker of the House is not a particularly powerful position.” Within historical context, today’s speakers are quite influential within the House. However, what they can’t do is change their own conferences; speakers represent their party’s members, and they’re going to be constrained by what those politicians want. So in that sense, their power is severely limited.

10. My Bloomberg View colleague Megan McArdle on what conservatives misunderstand about negotiations (and John Boehner).

11. Also here at View, Ramesh Ponnuru on how Boehner’s problem was the lack of a conservative policy agenda -- a problem he did little to solve. Fair.

12. Jonathan Chait’s analysis? The big problem with Boehner is that he couldn’t get rid of Barack Obama, and now he’s paying the price. Reasonable.

13. And sensible advice about the presidential campaigns from Charlie Cook.

 Get Early Returns every morning in your inbox. Click here to subscribe.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Maria Lamagna at