I’ve been thinking about the last question I got about Speaker John Boehner saying that he isn’t going to negotiate with President Obama anymore and about how generally terrible Congress is and I came to a thought.
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is next in line to the Presidency after the Vice President. The Speaker controls the flow of legislation in the House and is easily the most influential member of the Legislative branch — probably the third or fourth most powerful person in the country. The Speaker is an enormously important component to the political process in the United Sates.
It requires a simple majority of the votes of 435 people, many of whom are casting ballots on the first day of their new job in Congress, to elect the Speaker of the House. The voting is almost always done along strict party lines. John Boehner will probably be Speaker until January 3, 2015. It only took 200 people to decide that. Although the Speaker of the House is a tremendously powerful person who influences the lives of every American in many ways, John Boehner is really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of Ohio. Nancy Pelosi was really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of California.
Understanding all of this, shouldn’t we choose the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in a national election? Shouldn’t candidates for the Speaker have to face all of the voters of our country? Shouldn’t all Americans help make that decision?
Listen, the midterm elections are neither as rare or damaging to the Presidency as people might think. Almost every President gets his ass handed to him in the first midterm elections of their Presidency. Either change doesn’t happen quickly enough or the opposition party is more motivated to get out the vote and push their candidates when the election following the Presidential election comes around.
The 1994 midterm debacle for President Clinton was actually the best thing to ever happen to his Presidency. It swung the ball into the hands of Newt Gingrich’s Republicans, saddling them with the ambitious Contract With America, and forced Clinton to fight, instead of attempt to coast on his 1992 victory. Clinton got organized, learned how to use the Presidency effectively, cleaned house, and became focused. He was unstoppable against a wide field of not-so-impressive Republican Presidential candidates in 1996.
Can’t you see the same thing happening? Obama needs to clean house (and soon — both in the White House and the Cabinet), get organized, stop focusing on campaigns (he has nine or ten months before he has to start worrying about 2012), use his office effectively, and fight back. His field of potential 2012 opponents is vast and none of them stand out, much like the Republican field aligning against Clinton in 1996.
Best of all for Obama, he’s not handcuffed anymore by the historically ineffective Congressional leadership that his party had in place in the House of Representatives. John Boehner will be tough and he is the opposition, but it’s easier to fight an opponent than your ally. Obama’s been fighting against crappy Democratic leadership in the House (and Senate, but he still might be stuck with Harry Reid for a while) since his Inauguration. This midterm election could be the best thing to happen to Obama’s Presidency. In fact, it could be the very thing that saves it. Barack Obama is a ferociously dangerous underdog. If you don’t believe me, ask Hillary Clinton.