The Civil War Begins

Minority Leader John Boehner has announced that he will seek another two-year term as the highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. But it’s likely that the conservative wing of the Republican Party will try to replace him, just like they tried to do after the disastrous 2006 elections.

Matt Blunt, the Minority Whip, hasn’t announced whether or not he’ll seek another term–his hesitance indicates he probably won’t . If he does, though, he’ll have to face Eric Cantor from Virginia, who has announced his candidacy for Whip.

Florida’s Adam Putnam has already stepped down as the third-highest ranking Republican in the House; there is no word yet on who will vie to replace him.

I would expect Representatives like John Shadegg–who far-right conservatives supported in the 2006 leadership elections–to announce their candidacies. In 2006 they argued that Boehner, Blunt & Putnam’s leadership would be disastrous for their party; the GOP’s utter defeat yesterday has all but vindicated their position.

No matter who ends up where, it’s likely the current leadership won’t be leading much of anything in the 111th Congress. Who can blame them–under Boehner’s watch the GOP lost at least 49 seats in the House (though several races have yet to be called).

The conservative challengers will argue that Republicans didn’t lose because they were too conservative; in fact, improbably enough, they’ll argue that the GOP lost because they weren’t conservative enough.

Now, many of the GOPers who lost in ’06 and ’08 were from relatively moderate districts. They didn’t lose because they were moderate, they lost because their moderate constituencies didn’t like the far-right turn their party was taking. I mean, if they thought their representatives weren’t conservative enough, why would they have voted to replace them with Democrats?

Still, the first shots of the GOP’s civil war have been fired. And the Republicans might end up picking far-right leadership that will ensure they become very familiar with the role of the minority party.

Of course, I won’t make any broad generalizations about permanent majorities quite yet, but when your party is losing it doesn’t make much sense to embrace your losing strategy even more.