John Boehner has a problem. Well, okay, he has several problems.
First, despite his nominal leadership of the Republican party, he can't control the troops. Given his long history in the House, this must have come as a surprise to him — if there was anything Republicans have been good at for the past thirty years, it's been party discipline. The Tea Parties seem to have ruined that.
Second, he can't help but feel Eric Cantor's dagger poking at his side, looking for a good soft spot between the ribs. Cantor really wants to replace Boehner as Speaker of the House, and he doesn't seem to mind keeping his party divided against itself to get there.
Boehner is a corporatist, but also a pragmatist. As a corporatist, he prefers not to mess around with the possibility of creating financial meltdown. As a pragmatist, he follows Reagan in the belief that when you get 80% of what you wanted in a negotiation, you've won. When Obama offered up large chunks of Medicare and Medicaid on the altar of "moderation," Boehner was willing to go along with closing a few tax loopholes for the rich.
Cantor saw Boehner's "weakness" as an opportunity to run up to the front of the Tea Party parade with a large bass drum. Although he's been sounding more and more like a Grover Norquist ideologue lately, I suspect Cantor is much better understood as a pure opportunist — a man whose personal ambition far outweighs any party loyalty
After a few drinks the other night, I had this really neat fantasy. It won't come true, of course, but a lot of us would be supremely amused if it did.
John Boehner has lots of friends with money and power. Suppose he quietly encouraged some of them to start a "draft Eric Cantor" campaign for the 2012 presidential race. After all, the current crop of candidates is not especially impressive, and even the Tea Partiers have to be able to see that Cantor has a lot more on the ball than the intellectually challenged Michele Bachman.
I know, very unlikely — but what if Eric Cantor's hubris was great enough to get him to go along with it, and what if he won the nomination?
Why, then you'd have a black man running against a Jew for the highest office in the land! Oh no! Crisis in Redneckland!
As for me, I'd still be poking around the available third-party candidates looking for a place to cast my protest vote — but at least I could have a few good laughs.