Following John Boehner’s retirement announcement on September 25, Thomas Schaller, professor and chair of political science, wrote that the House Speaker’s time in office will be more defined by the political environment he inherited than some of the decisions he made while in office. Schaller’s column, “House of Shards,” was published in The American Prospect soon after Boehner’s announcement.
“To appreciate Boehner’s fraught tenure, it’s important to recall the years preceding Boehner’s 2011 ascension,” Schaller wrote, before describing the Wall Street bailout vote in 2008 and the rise of the Tea Party movement in 2010.
“So it was that in January 2011 Boehner became the first Republican speaker in GOP history to lead without the benefit of a companion Senate Republican majority. By his second term as speaker, his caucus was comprised two-thirds of members elected in 2006 or later, with half of the caucus elected in 2010 and 2012 elections alone. Forget his barkeeper father’s Republican Party: This wasn’t even his own Republican Party,” Schaller added.
Schaller also mentioned that the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations and the 2013 government shutdown when Boehner was heavily involved should be taken into account when reflecting on his tenure as House Speaker, but they should be balanced with his successes, including helping to avert two recent government shutdowns.
“No matter how many deal-with-the-devil accommodations Boehner made with members of his unruly House coalition to hang onto power, remember the shining moments when he pushed back.”
Schaller is an expert in American politics and political institutions. His most recent book is The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House.