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Mr. Speaker, Rep. Richard Nugent Speaks For Millions Of Us

Boehner & Nugent

Florida Congressman Richard Nugent (FL-11) who was elected to Congress in 2010, voted against Speaker Boehner’s re-election last Tuesday, so his opposition to Boehner was not exactly a secret.

Nugent voted for fellow Floridian Daniel Webster, one of two dozen House Republicans to oppose the Speaker’s re-election.

Many of Boehner’s opponents didn’t have much to say after the vote, but Nugent for one didn’t hide his light under a bushel.

After Boehner retaliated against Nugent and Webster by kicking them off the Rules Committee, Nugent released what POLITICO called a “manifesto,” outlining his reasons for opposing Boehner’s re-election. 

The point of Nugent’s criticism was the same one we’ve made many times; “I don’t believe that John Boehner is the best man for the job. This may surprise some people (including the Speaker) but it has far more to do with his leadership abilities than it does with his conservatism.”

In this Nugent was right on target and spoke for millions of grassroots Republican voters.

As Congressman Nugent explained in POLITICO, “What I mean by that is that if you can’t lead and you can’t deliver, then your own personal political philosophy is pretty much irrelevant. I’ve gone into far more detail about this criticism with him privately than I will here, but suffice it to say that there have been far too many occasions over the last four years where the House has been ineffective and America just can’t wait any longer. America needs vision, a sense of purpose, and an ability to follow through. We aren’t getting those things.”

Nugent told Speaker Boehner he wouldn’t follow the Speaker or other party leaders “aimlessly just because they have a title over their office door. Respect has to be earned and it has to be continually earned. I can respect the man and certainly the office he holds, but I would be lying if I said I respected his leadership. He simply hasn’t earned it. And if I feel that way and I don’t do anything about it, then who am I to talk, really?”

After Boehner survived the conservative challenge that Rep. Nugent and some two dozen other Republicans supported, the Speaker claimed he really is an anti-establishment conservative. 

“It does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish,” Boehner said at a news conference. “I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as ‘the establishment.’ Now I’m the most anti-establishment speaker we’ve ever had.”

“Who was the guy who got rid of earmarks? Me,” he continued. “Who’s the guy who believes in regular order? Me. Who believes in allowing more members to participate in the process from both sides of the aisle? Me.”

A lot of regular Republican voters who called their Representative to demand that he or she vote against Boehner recognize that John Boehner, as an individual, shares many of their beliefs; he’s never asked for an earmark, he has a solid pro-life voting record and has generally reflected good old Midwestern Republican approaches to governing.

But, as Rep. Richard Nugent explained, the problem with Boehner’s conservatism is not his individual beliefs; it is that his conservatism only holds until implementing those approaches to governing requires a real live fight to the death to turn those individual beliefs into public policy.

Like Rep. Richard Nugent, the thousands of conservative voters who melted the Capitol switchboard in an unprecedented show of opposition to Boehner’s re-election (and the millions who share their beliefs) won’t follow the Speaker or other Republican Party leaders “aimlessly just because they have a title over their office door.”

They believe, as Congressman Nugent does, that respect has to be earned, and it has to be continually earned by fighting for conservative principles and that sadly Speaker Boehner long ago abandoned any interest in obtaining their respect.

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