"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

Idaho’s down to three members of Congress

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

One of Idaho’s two congressional districts will be missing in the U.S. House this year. And next. The Republican fella who normally sits in the chair reserved for Idahoans from Boise North – Raul Labrador – will likely be a non-entity. And those 650,000 or so people he’s supposed to represent will have to get along without him handling their interests for about 24 months.

In another moment of his usual detachment from political reality, Labrador assured his exile by not voting for Speaker John Boehner’s re-election. He’ll chose to call it a “matter of conscience.” The rest of us will call it what it is: a “matter of betrayal of constituents.” If you want to fly your own single-seat plane into a cliff for personal reasons of conviction, that’s “conscience.” When you take 650,000 people with you, that’s betrayal. Not actively supporting your leadership when leadership needs your support is the closest Raul will get to piloting his own plane again. He’ll disappear from Boehner’s radar for about every purpose.

As for Boehner, he’ll spend the next two years in an even more ineffective role than the last two. He can’t speak for all of his own caucus. In fact, 16 of his members voted against him to keep his job and, if another 15 had changed their votes, he wouldn’t have made the first ballot cut. Messages there? You bet. Boehner will be able to do nothing the nutty right fringe doesn’t allow unless he gets some Democrats to go along.

And former Speaker Dennis Hastert – on Fixed News – had an experienced warning about such coalitions for ol’ John: “Maybe you can do it once; maybe you can do it twice. But you start making deals when you have to have Democrats to pass legislation, you’re not in power anymore.”

Then there’s this. While more than 82% of Americans disapprove of Congress and what it’s been doing – or rather, not doing – the evidence is overwhelming members don’t care. It used to be such polling numbers would send those folks home to apologize and promise they’d never do again whatever it was that put them in such disfavor. Now, they don’t care.

Two reasons. First, the districts have been redrawn to protect the majority party – in this case, the 2010 census numbers were massaged in favor of House Republicans. House Democrats would likely have done the same were they in power in 2011. The GOP just happened to have the majority at the time of the most recent census. So they aren’t as vulnerable to the various voter mood swings as in the past.

Second, money. If you’ve got a billionaire or Super PAC behind you, there’s no need to go looking for $5 and $10 donations at home. Karl Rove, the Koch boys, Adeleson, Standfield and the rest have direct deposit slips to your account. The more fringy – the more to the right – the more gullible – the more eager to kiss a rich finger ring – to be led, – the better. So you keep the big guys with the big bucks happy and enjoy the ride.

The other thing that’s already effectively reduced the Speaker’s clout is that group of 30-40 ideologues he can’t control. You can’t appease ‘em. You can’t buy ‘em off. You can’t lead ‘em. And they won’t shut up. They’ll continue to undercut Boehner’s authority at every turn.

Finally, as if his old political body didn’t already carry enough scars, Boehner grabbed the dull rhetorical knife and cut his own wrists by saying he would no longer communicate – coordinate – confer – negotiate – with the White House. Now, consider his weakened position within his own caucus, his already proven need to rely on Democrats when big issues come around and the fact he represents only one-half of one-third of the three branches of our government. In recent days, a vice president and a senator put together the grand “cliff” bargain without him and Boehner was left to fight it out with his own Republicans to get the deal done. Which he couldn’t have done without what? Without Democrats. And what did wise former Speaker Hastert warn him? “You do that and you’re no longer in power.”

So Boehner has turned his back on the president. And Labrador has turned his back on Boehner. Boehner may be able to build a coalition or two now and then as needed.

Labrador? Well, he can make the rounds of the rubber chicken circuit of far right believers and crow about his “matters of conscience.”

There’s gonna be an election in 2014 in which both men have an interest. I’d make book on Boehner. Labrador? You’ll probably find him at the airport. Sitting in his little airplane. All by himself.

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