Skip to main content

New 'leadership,' same agenda

By Steve Israel
updated 4:05 PM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, right, was just elected House majority leader, and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, left, was just elected House majority whip.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, right, was just elected House majority leader, and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, left, was just elected House majority whip.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Steve Israel says House Republicans' new leaders have same party priorities
  • Israel: Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise were elected on pledges of fealty to the tea party
  • Republicans, he says, just replaced one leader of the GOP shutdown with another

Editor's note: U.S. Rep. Steve Israel is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and represents New York's 3rd Congressional District. You can follow him on Twitter @IsraelDCCC. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- House Republicans just went through the pageantry of the changing of the guard with their leadership elections. But new names on the door won't change their party's priorities: protecting special interests, the ultra-wealthy and their own perks at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The term "Republican leadership" has become the biggest oxymoron in politics. If we learned one thing from Republicans' elections, it's that their leadership simply follows their tea party base in an unceasing march to the right.

Following their losses at the ballot box in 2012, Republicans rolled out a post-mortem calling for a move to the middle, recognizing that their days as a competitive national party were numbered if they continued on their current rightward path.

Since then, we have seen Republicans across the country do the exact opposite. They have grown more paranoid, more insular and more fearful. It's that fear of the tea party that shut down the government to disastrous consequences last year, and it's that fear that just caused them to replace one leader of the Republican shutdown with another.

Rep. Steve Israel
Rep. Steve Israel

In 2011, when John Boehner took over as speaker, he was billed as a moderate. And Eric Cantor was called mainstream. But both alternated between being hamstrung by and kowtowing to their right wing and drove their majority off a cliff.

And the numbers speak for themselves: after three and a half years, they have turned Congress into the least-trusted institution in America. Gallup now pegs confidence in Congress at just 7% — the lowest confidence rating for any institution ever recorded by Gallup in the past 40 years.

With ratings that abysmal, one might think that House Republicans might use a turnover in leadership as an opportunity to steer their sinking ship in a new direction. Think again.

Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise are members of the same tea party club and were elected on pledges of fealty to the tea party agenda. And that agenda will keep turning off the American public, dragging their ratings down and dragging Republicans further and further outside the mainstream.

The tragedy is that the middle class pays the price.

How did we get to this place, where the House majority continues to move so far from the center of American politics that they can no longer see it? NBC News provides some clues, finding in its polling that "the Tea Party is in a VERY different place on key issues" than even other, mainstream Republicans.

Take immigration as an example. Just 19% of tea party Republicans believe immigration helps the United States, compared to 47% of the country at large. With House Republicans beholden to this tiny minority of the country at large, they will continue to drag their party to the right — and their so-called leadership will have no choice but to follow, if they want to keep their jobs.

You can change the names on the door, but the out-of-touch agenda remains the same. If the country is to have any hope of combating the serious challenges facing us and creating an economy that works to lift up middle-class families, we need more than just a change of figureheads in the House.

We need to change the House majority.

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT