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 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT