an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Abbe Gluck abbe.gluck at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman msl46 at law.georgetown.edu
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Richard Primus raprimus at umich.edu
K. Sabeel Rahmansabeel.rahman at brooklaw.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Neil Siegel siegel at law.duke.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
Or maybe Rush Limbaugh, or possibly Sarah Palin. True, none of these individuals hold elected office, much less have a seat in Congress, but that’s irrelevant. Perhaps the most idiosyncratic rule under which Congress operates is that the Speaker of the House need not be an elected member of the House, or even a member of Congress. Sure, in 200+ years Congress has always elected one of its own to the prestigious post of both most powerful legislator and second in line, according to the current Succession in Office Act, to ascend to the Presidency, but who is to say that things can’t change? After all, some moderate Democrats who were pushing for Bill Clinton to become Speaker instead of Nancy Pelosi after the Democrats retook Congress in 2006.
One needs only to do a quick search on YouTube to findCalifornia Democratic Senator Barbara Boxerholding up the gavel and reminding Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe (who had lost his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to her as a result of the 2006 elections)that “elections have consequences.” Indeed, most predictions indicate that next week’s election will be especially consequential.
It appears likely that Republicans, led by Tea Party activists, are likely to take control of the House of Representatives. These Tea Party Republicansmay wellmake the ideologically charged Republican class of 1994 look like moderates. Which leads one to ask, why would these ultra-conservative freshman Congressmen vote for moderate Republican leadership in John Boehner? Perhaps it is his charisma, or just his inner (or maybe his outer) glow… The truth is that Boehner is a lackluster leader and the right wing of the Republican Party has no good reason to support him. He is ideologically left of them and, in many cases, has done little to help them get elected. So, why not bring in a leader with genuine Tea Party bonafides, someone with established national name recognition who has been more integral in getting these new members elected…someone like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin.
While legislative nuance is not in the particular skill set of any of these high profile conservatives, that hardly matters. All three get an abundance of media attention and have a great deal of skill stirring up support in the conservative base. While Palin would almost undoubtedly refuse the job so that she could continue to make a great deal of money as she sets up her run for President, Beck and Limbaugh would surely relish the experience of actually being in power rather than simply proselytizing through various media outlets,not to mention the possibility that they might get to the Oval Office itself should anything happen to President Obama and Vice President Biden.
While the threat that one of these pundits might be a viable candidate for Speaker might seem an unlikely outcome because mainstream Republicans in the House would resist such a takeover, it is a more genuine possibility than one might initially believe. (Recall that Christine O’Donnell was a 100-1 long-shot against Michael Castle the Delaware Primary). Given the Republican establishment’s capitulation to the Tea Party, many “mainstream” Republicans are extremely likely to submit lest they face primary opposition in 2012 for failure to support the Tea Party's chosen Speaker.How would you like to explain to Tea Party activists why Good-ole John Boehner is preferable to the Man who wants to “restore real America,” the “King of Talk Radio,” or even Alaska’s own “Mama Grizzly?”
If, as Jon Stewart asserts, America is a moderate, secretly sane nation, one would think that the last thing Americans truly wantis to wake up after an election only to look around and see that the guy scribbling on a chalk board and convincing them to buy gold on Fox News is suddenly the nation’s most powerful legislator. But it wouldn’t violate the laws of Physics, nor more to the point, the United States Constitution.
Evan A. Schnidman is a Ph.D student studying political economy and American politics in the Harvard Government department. You can reach him by e-mail at evan.schnidman at gmail.com Posted
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