Just two days after orchestrating the removal of two disloyal Florida GOP Congressmen (Daniel Webster and Rich Nugent), from the House Rules Committee, John Boehner is continuing his fight against recalcitrant Republicans. Today, Boehner tried to make the case that he was not “spineless or a squish”. In a press conference, he told NBC News that he was the “most anti-Establishment Speaker we have ever had” in the U.S. House.
The irony of Boehner declaring himself “anti-Establishment” two days after pulling committee assignments from other anti-Establishment Congressmen was probably not lost on his Republican critics. The fact that he exacted revenge on some of the House members who voted against him, might burnish his anti-squish credentials a tiny bit however. Still, the often cautious Speaker’s tenure in the U.S. House has hardly been marked by courage or risk-taking. While he may try to convince himself otherwise, John Boehner is the embodiment of the Republican establishment.
Boehner’s understanding of American History also seems rather limited. The current Speaker is hardly near the top of the list for most anti-establishment speaker in the U.S. House. That honor should instead be bestowed upon Nathaniel Banks , who was elected to the House in 1852 as an abolitionist in the then pro-slavery Democratic Party of his day.
In Congress, Banks bucked the party establishment on the crucial Kansas-Nebraska Act vote. Then in 1856, he cobbled together a coalition of anti-slavery Democrats, Free Soilers, Whigs, and Know Nothings to make a bid for the Speaker’s position, representing the newly formed Republican Party. He was chosen as Speaker of the House on the 133rd ballot after almost two months of bitter fighting.
That improbable victory is widely regarded at the first national victory for the Republican Party. Four years later, Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican president. While the Republican Party has strayed far from its early roots, there can be little question that Banks was a much greater threat to establishment politics in his day than “business as usual” John Boehner is to the political establishment today.
Boehner’s relatively mundane political career hardly qualifies as anything but a footnote in history. He is about as predictable and uninspiring as a political leader can be, overshadowed in dullness only by Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. To Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike he still comes a cross as pretty squishy.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.