King Lear is an epic tragedy, even compared to the litany of downfalls that William Shakespeare authored. Even Shakespeare, though, might be wondering where the plot is going in the tragedy that has played out among the House Republican Conference. Punctuated by the latest news that Kevin McCarthy will not, after all, seek the role of Speaker of the House, Republicans have to be scratching their heads about what is actually going on. Conservatives are rejoicing – but why? They debate as to who the real “conservative” is that they’d like to have as speaker. The “Establishment” is lamenting the turnaround – again, why? The job of Speaker is a miserable one in the toxic political environment and leads to nothing even close to a governing majority.
Lear, in lamenting to his fool about the situation they find themselves in while cursing a storm, utters “I will be the pattern of all patience, I will say nothing.” Among the tragedy we Republicans find ourselves in, we are doing nothing but cursing a storm to a group of fools we surround ourselves with. We might do well to show patterns of patience. We might do well to avoid the urgency to appoint the “perfect” Speaker among our conference and find a way to air our grievances during an interim period until 2017 comes.
Let’s recognize some realities and truths that cannot be avoided. First, nothing Congress does will in any fashion change the trajectory of the country for the next fifteen months. We can pass all the bills we want and they will, at the very least, be vetoed by an executive who has little patience for compromise. More than likely, they’ll sit idle in a risk averse Senate in which Democrats will contain a sizable enough minority to block cloture. At least 300 solid pieces of conservative legislation have been passed out of the House this term alone, and nothing has been accomplished.
Second, and more important than that, is nobody can in any way define the role of Speaker and what it is supposed to look like or do. Rather than rushing into a decision most will be unsatisfied with, this might be a time for all Republicans to take a step back and start asking difficult questions of themselves before they start placing impossible demands on others. Patience requires a great deal of maturity that some Republicans just might not have. However, some Republicans do, and they need to be given the time to find a path forward, regardless of what faction inside the coalition Republicans find themselves in. More than likely, they’ll end up finding some semblance of purpose and consistency among our agenda that we call can agree on. Most important, we’ll have a vision that can drive home the message we need to communicate to voters during the general election campaign beginning next spring.
I’d like to avoid finding ourselves ousted by the evil daughters of our party into a storm with nobody but a fool. Then again, it might be good to remember that King Lear found himself subject to the whims of his evil daughters by virtue of the fact he demanded flattery over honesty. Conservatives may find themselves in a position of strength right now by virtue of the Conference’s collapse; that’s not a good place to be. It’s flattery, and guaranteed we will find ourselves alone in a storm without a House to govern.