House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Drs. Frankenstein of the Republican Party, are now striking out against the monsters they created. While their criticism of the extremist pressure groups that finance and fuel the tea partiers who have made a mess out of Washington is welcome and overdue, their hypocrisy is difficult to stomach.
Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell and other Republican leaders were beside themselves with glee back in 2010 when the nascent tea party movement enabled the GOP to not only claim a House majority but take enough red state legislative majorities to gerrymander districts to protect that new majority. Thanks to those gerrymandered districts, Republicans maintained control of the House in 2012 although Democratic candidates for the House drew more total votes than did Republican candidates. The GOP is all but certain to keep the House in 2014.
However, the primary victories of unelectable U.S. Senate candidates in Colorado, Nevada, Delaware, Indiana and Missouri over the last two election cycles denied Republicans a chance to take control of the Senate over the last two election cycles, and the bloom came completely off the tea party rose during the disastrous government shutdown and threatened debt default. Americans, it turns out, don't want their system of government destroyed by fanatics, and Speaker Boehner and Mr. McConnell are doing damage control. Their newly emerging backbones aside, however, they are responsible for the damage done by not standing up to party extremists until their own political interests were threatened.
To their credit they did call out groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Madison Project and Heritage Action for specifically supporting the government shutdown and threatened debt default and more generally attacking any Republican who supports compromise with Democrats on any issue. These cynical organizations are raking in millions of dollars by misleading and riling up tea partiers about any and every White House or Democratic proposal, even those that, like health care reform, were once Republican causes.
Speaker Boehner tried to let House tea partiers off the hook by saying they were duped by these groups but that is no excuse. Every elected official -- every American for that matter -- is responsible for getting the facts and resisting transparently political propaganda.
These organizations and their acolytes, duped or otherwise, are undermining our system of government to the detriment of all. Elections have consequences. If your presidential candidate lost it is because a majority of voters wanted the other candidate and his policies. Endless obstruction by, for example, tea partiers, who represent a small fraction of the American electorate, goes beyond petulance to destructiveness. It would not be unlike Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell to flip-flop and return to appeasing the unappeasable, but if they stay on the right path they may yet undo some of their damage and return sanity to a Washington that can only function when Democrats and Republicans find a reasonable path forward.