Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Boehner's painful populism

We should all feel ashamed of our ungrateful selves.

How were we supposed to know that House Speaker John Boehner so loves democracy and respects the will of the people that he was willing to put some 800,000 federal employees out of work, close the national park system, shut down cancer treatments for children, deny Head Start toddlers their care and throw the economy into disarray?

It was all for your own good.

Boehner has insisted he has permitted the government of the United States to become a virtual suburb of Burkina Faso and grind to a standstill because by his reading of public opinion polls that is precisely what the American people want. Those darned people loathe and detest Obamacare and want it gone. Now.

To a certain extent, Boehner appears to be right. Polling related to Obamacare is all over the place. Real Clear Politics cites an average of the surveys indicating roughly 51.4 percent oppose the law, while 39.4 percent are in favor.

But polls also indicate many Americans think the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are different things. Many also believe the law will create death panels, allow the feds to take away their weapons and permit the government to monitor their sex lives.

Still, Boehner's born-again populism is both refreshing and vexing. The House speaker has been rather selective in adhering to his inner Norman Rockwell in deciding which polls will guide him and which won't.

Forbes magazine, hardly a bastion of socialism, recently noted a poll showing only one-third of Americans favor repealing Obamacare or stopping funding for it. A CBS News poll revealed 72 percent of Americans oppose Boehner's shutdown of the government.

Now there's a campaign slogan-in-waiting for you: "Re-Elect John Boehner — Successfully Offending 72 Percent of the Population."

Boehner and his Republican colleagues (cue The Battle Hymn of the Republic) were unwilling to do much about gun control even after 20 children and six educators were murdered in Newtown, Conn., last year and some 8,925 people have been shot to death since the school tragedy.

If Boehner was so sensitive to legislation by polls, gun control would fly through the House. Polls show overwhelming support for universal background checks, creating a national database of all gun sales and banning assault-style weapons. Yet — nothing.

If Boehner followed public opinion on immigration reform, this issue also would have been resolved at least 100 tanning sessions and/or crybaby fits ago.

Polls conducted by Quinnipiac University, CBS News, ABC News/Washington Post and Gallup all show wide support for legislation allowing illegal immigrants already in this country to have an eventual path to citizenship if they pay a fine and learn English, and if border security is beefed up. Yet — nothing.

Why are polls showing support for gun control and immigration dismissed by Boehner while the speaker plunges the nation into chaos on the basis of polling numbers that are at best contradictory?

Or is it more likely Boehner doesn't give a gnat's patootie what the public thinks? More likely the only poll that matters to him is the addled consensus of perhaps two dozen Roundhead-lites within the Republican House caucus, who would rather see the nation implode before they would agree to having a poor person get a free bandage.

It is more than ironic that Boehner represents Cincinnati in Congress.

The city is named after the Emperor Cincinnatus, who ruled over the Roman empire twice, in 488 B.C. and 439 B.C. Legend holds that Cincinnatus served only as long as needed and voluntarily surrendered power for the greater civic good once his work was accomplished.

There is no evidence he governed Rome by poll or the hysterical influence of the toga tea party.

Cincinnatus simply relied on his own good judgment. No wonder John Boehner seems so flummoxed.

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