It’s hard out there for John Boehner

August 15, 2013

Here's New Mexico Republican Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) in a new profile by National Journal's Billy House:

Pearce is also constantly reminding audiences that he was among 12 Republicans who did not vote in January to reelect John Boehner as House speaker. "Probably the most popular vote I've made, in this district," he says. When he tells audiences he cast that vote, Pearce says he gets, "Always applause, sometimes standing applause."

The people who are applauding, in all likelihood, are not Democrats. Pearce comes from New Mexico's lone conservative-leaning congressional district, and Boehner isn't the kind of speaker who draws a visceral reaction from the political left.

So let's assume Pearce is talking about conservatives who applaud his vote against Boehner. Here's what it means:


Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) when he won his congressional seat in 2010. (AP)

The fact is that, in today's Republican Party, being anti-establishment is (for lack of a better term) cool. Republicans love someone who says "let's stick it to the man" -- even if "the man" is also a Republican.

Being a rabble-rouser who criticizes both President Obama and House Republican leadership is the surest and shortest path to making a name for yourself. And, more and more, House Republicans -- and a few Senate Republicans -- are wearing their opposition to GOP leadership as a badge of honor.

This is not to say that they don't have real disagreements with their party's leadership -- they undoubtedly do -- just that they also happen to get significant political mileage out of mixing it up with their fellow Republicans.

It's all a remnant of the tea party movement, which was founded in opposition to Obama's policies but also took care to separate itself from the Republican Party proper.

That separation has increased over the last couple years. And today, a majority of Republicans -- including both the most conservative Republicans and the most moderate ones -- disapprove of the party's leadership.

It's also why we're going to see more and more Republicans distancing themselves from Boehner, et. al., and less and less GOP cohesion.

The GOP has plenty of internal divides to sort out -- from immigration to defunding Obamacare to privacy vs. national security. But from an organizational standpoint, this anti-establishment trend is going to make each and every one of them much more difficult to resolve.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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