Boehner's failure signals marginalization of GOP

If House Speaker John Boehner can't get Republicans to back a tax increase for the richest 0.3 percent of Americans, it has lost its claim to mainstream status.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) of Ohio speaks to reporters about the fiscal cliff negotiations at the Capitol in Washington, Friday. Hopes for avoiding the 'fiscal cliff' that threatens the US economy fell Friday after fighting among congressional Republicans cast doubt on whether any deal reached with President Obama could win approval ahead of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts, which kick in Jan. 1.

Remarkably, John Boehner couldn’t get enough House Republicans to vote in favor of his proposal to keep the Bush tax cuts in place on the first million dollars of everyone’s income and apply the old Clinton rates only to dollars over and above a million.

What? Even Grover Norquist blessed Boehner’s proposal, saying it wasn’t really a tax increase. Even Paul Ryan supported it. 

What does Boehner’s failure tell us about the modern Republican party?

That it has become a party of hypocrisy masquerading as principled ideology. The GOP talks endlessly about the importance of reducing the budget deficit. But it isn’t even willing to raise revenues from the richest three-tenths of one percent of Americans to help with the task. We’re talking about 400,000 people, for crying out loud. 

It has become a party that routinely shills for its super-wealthy patrons at a time in our nation’s history when the middle class is shrinking, the median wage is dropping, and the share of Americans in poverty is rising. 

It has become a party of spineless legislators more afraid of facing primary challenges from right-wing kooks than of standing up for what’s right for America.

For all these reasons it has become irrelevant to the problems America faces.

No wonder a majority of Americans now say the Republican Party is too extreme, according to a poll released Thursday by CNN/ORC.

53 percent — including 22 percent of Republicans themselves — say the GOP’s views and policies have pushed them out of the mainstream. That’s significantly higher than in 2010, when fewer than 40 percent thought the GOP too extreme.

Meanwhile, 57 percent now say Democrats are “generally mainstream.”

The Republican Party in the process of marginalizing itself out of existence. I am tempted to say good riddance, but that would be premature. 

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