Home/Daniel Larison/Is the GOP Capable of Governing?

Is the GOP Capable of Governing?

Paul Ryan, unluckiest man in Washington (Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com)

Reading about the fallout from last week’s health care bill failure, I was struck by this statement from the Speaker of the House:

We were a 10-year opposition party [bold mine-DL], where being against things was easy to do,” Mr. Ryan said at a sheepish news conference shortly after the bill was pulled, adding with uncharacteristic candor that Republicans were not yet prepared to be a “governing party.”

That’s a remarkable statement from the top House leader of a party that has been in the majority in that chamber continuously for the last six years and has controlled the House for all but four years during a period of more than two decades. The “10-year opposition party” was in charge of at least one chamber of Congress for more than half that time, and controlled both chambers for at least part of that period. Ryan’s statement is a candid admission of incompetence, but more than that it is a window into the mindset of the party’s leadership about their role during the past eight years.

Despite having a House majority starting in 2011, the GOP didn’t consider itself and didn’t act as if they were responsible for governing. That pose could be maintained only so long as the other party controlled the White House. To the extent that they were ever capable of governing in the past, they let that ability atrophy to the point where they no longer know how to do it. Assuming that he has some idea how to fix this, Ryan won’t have much time to do it before midterm campaigning begins. If the GOP doesn’t learn how to be a governing party very soon, voters will relieve them of that burden in a year and a half.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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