After Boehner, 'Hard-Liner' Is the New York Times' Anti-Conservative Phrase that Pays

September 28th, 2015 10:56 PM

The shock resignation of Speaker John Boehner has driven the New York Times into a labeling fit, fearing an even more unreasonably conservative Republican leadership team will emerge in the aftermath. A snotty front-page report Monday from David Herszenhorn and Jonathan Martin, two of the paper's many GOP-hostile reporters, warned of "conservative rage" and included seven "hard-line" labels (two in one sentence) and opened with a "hard-right" one, in "Boehner's Move Deepens a Republican Chasm." 

Far from quelling dissent in the Republican ranks, the resignation of Speaker John A. Boehner is intensifying the divide that has emboldened hard-right lawmakers and insurgent presidential candidates, leaving a party that prides itself on orderly process in uncharacteristic disarray.

The top three candidates in the Republican race at the moment have one thing in common: They have never held elective office. Dozens of members of the House of Representatives have held their seats only since the 2010 election, and many of them ran on a platform to force a drastic reduction in the role of government. A new class of billionaire donors, who can contribute unlimited amounts of money to support a candidate, has undercut the power and relevance of the national party.


There are signs of more mainstream conservatives pushing back, saying the tactics demonstrated by hard-liners have accomplished nothing except the early departure of Mr. Boehner.


Mr. Boehner was leading a House in which Republicans had their largest majority since Herbert Hoover was president. Yet even as he tried to appease members with repeated votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act or to defund Planned Parenthood, more absolutist conservatives were not satisfied.

The hard-line group has not put forward a viable candidate for speaker and, with only 50 or so members, does not have enough to elevate one of its own. While that leaves Mr. Boehner’s No. 2, Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, well positioned to succeed him, it was clear that the speaker’s critics viewed his departure not as a moment to reunify the party but to push harder against the establishment.


The hard-liners seem poised to attack a likely deal this week between Mr. Boehner and Democrats to avoid a government shutdown as yet another example of collusion between establishment Republican leaders and the Obama White House.

Without any vote analysis or ranking, the reporters simply restated the liberal conventional wisdom (heard since the Reagan administration) that the Republican Party is out of moderates. Even if there's some truth to the idea of increased political polarization in Congress, the Times rarely singles out the similar pattern in the Democratic Party.

How the fight in Congress plays out will also help define the struggle for the party’s national identity. As just one measure: The ranks of its moderates have shrunk to just a few members.

Even as conservatives rage against not having 60 votes in the Senate to overcome Democratic filibusters, or the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, their fiery language is almost certain to diminish the party’s chances of expanding its majorities. That would require winning seats in swing states and districts, where voters often prefer more centrist views.


Representative Bill Flores of Texas, head of the Republican Study Committee, said the hard-liners often seemed bent on destruction. “If you look at what’s happened the last few weeks, you have had people trying to burn the House down,” he said.

The Times noted the upcoming fight for House majority leader, with contenders including Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, and Tom Price of Georgia, and then managed the inelegant trick of using the "hard-liner" phrase twice in a single sentence.

Mr. Boehner expressed that exasperation on Sunday, accusing the hard-liners, in an interview on “Face the Nation,” when he was asked if the hard-liners were unrealistic. “Absolutely they’re unrealistic!” he said, almost shouting....

In the presidential race, party leaders face a delicate balance between appealing to an angry grass-roots hungry to upend the party’s leadership and placating donors who do not want to risk losing the White House for a third straight election.

The Times concluded with a paean to moderate Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and proposed "adult in the room," before throwing in one more "hard-liner" label.

“I think over time you’re going to see people coming back to realize that we’ve got to have an adult in the room, a person that can beat a Democrat,” said Fred Zeidman, a Texas contributor to Mr. Bush, who has been eclipsed so far by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Zeidman said Mr. Boehner’s exit worried him a great deal because it might embolden the hard-liners in Congress.

“If we shut the government down, we’re dead,” he said.