The Occupy Wall Street movement was fatally flawed: it had no principles of unity, no structure, no leadership and, as a consequence, no chance to effect real change. Which almost exactly describes what has happened to the congressional Republicans.
They have become the Occupy Congress Party. Despite accusations from the right-wingers in his caucus, for the past several years, House Speaker John Boehner has not had a grip on his party. His “leadership” was anything but; his chief deputy, Bakersfield’s Kevin McCarthy, was a weak and doltish surrogate; he was outflanked and humiliated repeatedly.
Now, with no actual leadership structure, the GOP in the House is a governing party dominated by people who have no interest in governing. Shutting down the federal government, defaulting on the national debt and deadlocking every possible decent proposal to come before Congress – these comprise the “agenda” of the so-called Freedom Caucus of tea party knuckle-draggers.
They don’t wiggle their fingers to signify “Yes,” but in part that’s because they never say “Yes.” They’re the party of “No” – especially to compromise, the most vital element in governing which these anti-governing congress members equate with capitulation.
To say they’re a protest movement is an affront to protest movements. Most of these have a unified message and a common goal.
Whether the rise and fall of Boehner and McCarthy represents the collapse of the modern-day Republican Party remains to be seen. Maybe they’ll pick Paul Ryan as Speaker and he’ll magically unite them into a cohesive governing party. We’re not betting on that.
It happened to the Whigs in 1854, when the Republican Party itself was born (along with the Know-Nothing Party). So it’s not out of the question that the GOP could splinter. In fact, it’s hard to forsee how the congressional Republicans can find common ground in a way that results in a unified, governing party.
Meanwhile, the manifestation of this know-nothing trend in the GOP is apparent in the polls for president, with Donald and Carly and Ben (Oh My) – none of them former office-holders – holding the collective lead. For now.
How the Occupy Congress Party resolves its fracture – or if it does – will offer a clue to whether the Republicans running for president, have an actual party to represent.