From Point A to Point C…
Posted January 4, 2013on:
Morning Widdershin friends — here’s hoping your holidays were full of joy and enjoyment.
If you are ever asked to take a leadership position by friend or foe, first determine whether or not the organization is in a period of transition. If the organization is in a period of transition, politely tell the person inquiring you have to first set your hair on fire and after that pleasant interlude you might consider it.
Leading in a period of transition is the equivalent of finding the source of a fart in a whirlwind — nigh impossible. During these periods of transition, everyone is in turmoil, everyone is insecure, and everyone reverts to their comfort zone which is most likely re-entrenchment. Leading during periods of tumultuous transition is like being given a gift that eats — it is a never-ending burden that often bears extraordinary costs.
We are in one of those periods of transition in terms of government, the economy, manufacturing, the military, diplomatically, and a host of other areas, but there is no better example than the House of Representatives. Point A was prior to the 2010 midterm election and Point C is somewhere out there in the future — Point B is the tenure of Speaker John Boehner and that sweet, orangey, citrus-like aroma you are smelling is the beginning of a painfully slow self-immolation.
By all accounts, Representative Boehner is a reasonably good guy who is quick to shed a tear and even quicker to pick up a glass. He’s profane, inartful, and horribly over-employed at the moment. He’s no Sam Rayburn, Tip O’Neil, or Nancy Pelosi. He’s a none-too-agile mouse trying to herd a ravenous pack of cats with a cabal of ambitious lessers like et tu Eric Cantor pelting him with catnip.
After a Republican caucus during the “fiscal cliff” major-go-to-pieces, one reporter said, “There were forty speakers and thirty-seven of the tea party members passionately spoke against any form of compromise.” I thought, “Self, where have you heard of that tactic before?” So I did what any inquiring mind does, I plugged it into the Googling machine.
The Googling machine appropriately jogged my ever-dwindling Scotch-ridden memory with this from August 2009:
The memo, authored by Robert MacGuffie, a volunteer for FreedomWorks, the industry funded group that helped organize and support Tea Party protests, suggests that tea partiers should “pack the hall… spread out” to make their numbers seem more significant, and to “rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation…to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early…. to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda…stand up and shout…”
Ordinarily I would tritely offer, “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks,” but with the Tea Party zealots, I will offer the age-old adage oft heard while huddled around the microscope, “you can’t expect a paramecium to grow new cilia.” When the shadowy, dark-monied interests birthed the Tea Party five weeks after the Obama inauguration and their numbers multiplied during the 2010 mid-term elections like tribbles from Star Trek fame, this is the result.
The Nostradamian numerical nerd Nate Silver estimates there are only 35 “swing” districts remaining out of the Four Hundred Thirty-five congressional districts. This insures the vast majority of Congressional elections are skewed toward an ever-increasing polarized electorate where the true will of the voters takes a distant second to guarding against being “primaried” by a more rabidly polarized zealot.
It is against this backdrop that Speaker Boehner has in essence ceded control of the House of Representatives to the Tea Party contingent — presently numbering somewhere between 50 and 70 members (an accurate count isn’t available since tri-cornered hats, leggings, and muskets are disfavored on the House floor — the NRA is working on the musket part).
Lest any of these Congress critters sprain their arms from patting themselves on their backs from muddling through the “fiscal cliff” debacle, greater obstacles lie ahead — the budget fight, the sequestration reanimation in 60-days, and most ominous of all, the debt ceiling imbroglio.
This cast of characters combined with the debt ceiling is as dangerous as a “cocked cannon in a lighter factory.” Simply put, another downgrade to our credit rating could precipitate higher borrowing costs triggering a massive increase in the interest on the debt prior to employment reaching a more sustainable level. If you wanted to see a parade of horribles, this scenario is the drum major — it could conceivably create a world-wide upheaval dwarfing the 2008 financial collapse.
And the sad part, the truly infinitely regrettably sad part, just like the “fiscal cliff,” this is an entirely self-inflicted wound by a gaggle of some seventy representatives who have wrested control of one-half of one-third of our government.
Learning is an indispensable part of leadership and this is where the Tea Party seems to become bulimic. They confuse their sound-bite panaceas for policy considerations. Compromise coming from considered debate is seen as a wicked liberal potion. They conflate leadership as being their trumpet call to self-importance and airtime on Fox.
I do not envy John Boehner in the months ahead and progressives should not exhibit Schadenfreude during his travails. The best we can hope from him is pretty simple — he must disregard the Hastert Rule and call up votes on the House floor even when the issue fails to garner a majority of the Republican caucus. It is estimated there are approximately ninety Republicans loyal enough to him to join with the Democratic minority to get us through this period of tumultuous transition.
The greatest examples of leadership often come in small acts — we can only hope Speaker Boehner is so bold as to dare take these small steps toward building a governing coalition. For the sake of the country, we should hope he does and support him if he is wise enough to do so.
This is an “all skate” open thread.
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