By Columnist Dick Morris
House Speaker John Boehner would not be House Speaker John Boehner if it were not for the tea party and the other conservative groups he now criticizes. He says that they “lack all credibility” and accuses them of “using our members [Congressmen] and the American people for their own goals.”
Asked about the criticism leveled at the budget deal by conservative groups, the said “Are you kidding me? I don’t care what they do.”
His comments immediately drew admiring praise from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who said his comments were “a breath of fresh air.”
Has the world turned upside down? If it were not for these groups — the Tea Party Patriots, Heritage Action for America or others — the Republicans would have lost the elections of 2010 and he never would have been Speaker.
The grass- and cyber-roots enthusiasm of these conservative groups animate the Republican Party in the same way that groups like Occupy Wall Street and Moveon.org provide a shot in the arm for their party.
Without their hard work, outreach, enthusiasm and donations, the Republican Party would never have won in 2010 and won’t win in the future. And House Speaker John Boehner better realize it. If he doesn’t, perhaps his members will and will reacquaint him with reality.
Without the tea party, the Republican Party would be an inarticulate, me-too party without ideas or energy.
The Republican Party has always represented a fusion of two broad groups: those who are driven by ideology and those who grew up in geographic areas that are traditionally Republican and joined the party because it was the obvious way to enter politics.
Call them the Nixon Republicans, these folks live in suburbs or small towns and represent the equivalent of the urban big city machines that spawn and nurture Democrats.
But this party could not get elected. It would not have defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980 or elected Ronald Reagan. It would not have been the vehicle for the Gingrich Revolution of 1994, nor would it have taken the House in 2010.
It required a Reagan, a Newt Gingrich, a Ted Cruz, a Paul Ryan, a Mike Huckabee, or the like to animate it, fill it with ideas and carry it to victory.
For Boehner to cast aside these party enthusiasts and conservative workhorses is shortsighted and ungrateful in the extreme.
The tea party types are amateurs. They are small businesspeople, retired military, doctors and so forth that are professionals in their occupations but amateurs in politics. We need to be patient with their learning curve. They learned a lesson in October when the government shutdown backfired. And they won’t make that mistake again. Indeed, their basic acceptance of the Ryan-Murray deal indicates precisely that growth of perspective and maturity.
In this light, the Speaker’s comments are outrageous and cast real doubt on his ability to lead the House in the future.