By Scott Robertson
Last week at a public event, I mentioned an idea my wife had to a representative of Congressman Phil Roe’s office. It was, like most of my wife’s ideas, well reasoned and thoughtful. It was about politics, and it made perfect sense. Which is why it will never happen.
My wife, I explained, wants to draft Eric Cantor to be the next Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
If you haven’t been keeping up, the Republican majority in the House has been splintered and rendered almost completely ineffective by the infighting. When outgoing Speaker John Boehner leaves the post, no one has any idea who will replace him. The assumed front-runner, Kevin McCarthy, has already bailed on accepting the post, and the next man in the hole is the GOP’s last vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, whom, were are told, has no interest in accepting the gavel.
At a time when the GOP should be reveling in the failures of the Obama administration, painting a clear picture of the way forward, and unifying to send a strong message to the voters in advance of one of the most important elections of our time, the party is instead painting a picture of indecision and lack of leadership.
Less than 13 months from now, the country will vote in an election to determine the future of all three branches of the federal government. Every House seat, a third of the Senate seats (meaning control of the Senate) and the White House will all be up for grabs, as is the case every four years. The next president will likely make the nominations to fill the swing seats on the U.S. Supreme Court.
And since the White House is currently in Democratic hands, and the leading Republican candidates for President are outsiders, where is the American public to look for examples of how Republicans lead in Washington? The House. And the House is not in order.
One representative for the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative congressmen that has been widely blamed for the party’s inability to function recently, said in a FoxNews.com editorial piece, “Given an opportunity to support pro-growth economics, fiscal restraint and limits on the regulatory state, the HFC would not stand in the way of a well-functioning Congress.” That’s 50 of 247 Republican representatives telling the leadership what their demands are. It’s like a child telling her parents, “given all the candy I want, and being able to stay up till whenever I want, and you buying me a pony, I will not misbehave.”
And remember, this is all within the same party. This is not Republicans telling Democrats we need pro-growth economics, fiscal restraint, and limits on the regulatory state. This is conservatives telling other conservatives they aren’t conservative enough.
If their demands are met, then, they “would not stand in the way of a well-functioning congress.” Which means if their demands are not met…
Would you want to be the leader of an organization in which the rules allow 20 percent of the people you’re supposed to be leading to kneecap you at every turn?
The House is turning into a clown car that none of the clowns will drive.
Happily, as a party, this is not the best we can do.
Enter Eric Cantor.
The man was House Majority Leader as a Republican. He had been a whip. He was a little too moderate for the conservatives and a little too conservative for the moderates. The Democrats feared him because they saw him as the heir apparent to Boeher, and because he looked for all the world like he would be a far more effective leader than Boehner.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. In the 2014 congressional elections, Cantor was ousted in the primary in his own district by a more conservative Republican. Cantor had left himself vulnerable at home by concentrating more on national politics than local. In his zeal to become the next speaker, he left his right flank unguarded on the immigration issue.
To my wife, none of that matters. Cantor’s 2014 opponent has Cantor’s old seat, and he’s welcome to it. Bringing Cantor back to be Speaker doesn’t mean reinserting Cantor in that district. The Speaker does not have to be a member of the House. Cantor has trained for this post for years. He is the single best-trained, best-qualified man in America to hold the office. But bringing him back would presuppose that members of the party on both sides of the rift have an interest in governing.
Somewhere, Ronald Reagan is shaking his head. And somewhere else, Hillary Clinton is smiling.