In the wake of Jim Antle’s post below about Speaker John Boehner’s apparent effort to sandbag fellow Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan — for having the audacity to oppose Boehner’s deficit plan — a bit of interesting House GOP history.
Here’s the statement that helped launch a move to remove the GOP Speaker:
The House of Representatives, as controlled in recent years by the Republican Party, has ceased to be a deliberative and legislative body, responsive to the will of the majority of its members, but has come under the absolute domination of the Speaker, who has entire control of its deliberations and powers of legislation…
The target of this fury?
GOP House Speaker “Uncle Joe” Cannon — for whom today’s Cannon House Office Building is named. Cannon was a longtime GOP congressional powerhouse — and as the fresh incident with Speaker Boehner and Congressman Jordan illustrates, was not above using his speakership as a weapon of personal political power for no discernible reason other than he had the power to do so.
The statement above was actually issued by a Democrat functionary of the day, the charge picked up by a former House member and prominent Democrat — three-time presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan.
But while it was Democrats who stirred the public dust, in fact the House GOP majority was filled with Republican reformers — the tea party members of the day who, in the aborning Progressive era, were mostly what we would now call GOP RINOs. But progressives — like Tea Party conservatives today — were on the rise in 1910. And like Jim Jordan, they were not only not happy with their own GOP Speaker, they didn’t hesitate to say so — Cannon’s alleged power be damned.
The result? Rebellion in GOP House ranks. As Boehner has apparently blown his lid over Jordan’s disagreement’s from the House Republican Study Committee, with the Speaker’s allies threatening retribution, so too did Cannon do the same. The problem? There were so many GOP reformers in the House that Cannon’s efforts to muzzle them backfired.
Cannon was furious as all this exploded into the open. Handing the gavel to an ally, he took to the well of the House to hotly deny he was any kind of dictator and that the Speakership was somehow all about Joe Cannon’s career rather than principle. Now his own once safe seat was called into question — and he had to fight to hold it. He did — narrowly. But his ill-treatment of GOP members and others had by now become such a national issue that the GOP lost control of the House in the 1912 election — and Cannon lost his speakership to Democrat Champ Clark.
The House, it was charged, was under the control of “Cannonism” — and the powerful Speaker lost his speakership because of the charge.
Will the rebellion against Speaker Cannon and “Cannonism” serve as any kind of flashing caution light to Speaker Boehner that the threats against Jordan are what might be called “Boehnerism”?
Will this treatment of Jim Jordan backfire? Quickly making of Jordan a Tea Party House martyr? Will Boehner himself become symbolic of a speakership quickly and unexpectedly heading off the rails — and taking the House GOP majority with it?
Time will tell.
But clearly this Columbus Dispatch story has a perilous ability to backfire and launch precisely the kind of rebellion in House GOP circles that once did in a powerful Speaker.
Effectively ending Boehner’s effectiveness as Speaker, possibly inducing a primary against Boehner himself — and disrupting the effectiveness of the House GOP majority before it even gets off the ground.
Somewhere, President Obama is surely laughing.
One has to ask: what are these people thinking?
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