Analysis: John Boehner is who we thought he was after all

Except that, well, Boehner is (still) a Republican. And — despite all of his public doubts about Trump and Trumpism — he voted for the President’s reelection in 2020.

“I voted for Donald Trump,” Boehner told Time Magazine in an interview to promote his memoir — “On the House” — which is officially released on Tuesday. “I thought that his policies, by and large, mirrored the policies that I believed in. I thought the choices for the Supreme Court were top notch. At the end of the day, who gets nominated to the federal courts is really the most important thing a President does.”

Worth noting: Boehner says he voted for Trump directly after saying this: “Donald Trump is a product of the chaos we’ve seen in our political process over the last 10 or 12 years.”

Rather than some sort of speak-truth-to-power hero, Boehner is typical of the broader Republican approach to Trump: Hold your nose and vote for him because, uh, judges. Boehner is not the exception to the Republican rule. He is the rule. He was willing to overlook Trump’s weaponizing of race and gender, his decidedly un-conservative approach to debt and deficit, his open disdain at the idea of being “presidential,” all because Trump nominated conservative judges to the Supreme Court. That’s the deal Republicans made with themselves way back when Trump won the nomination in 2016. Boehner was no different.

In Boehner’s defense, he never cast himself as some sort of Republican rebel during his time in office. You don’t rise to become speaker of the House by not being able to tell which way the wind is blowing, and heading in that direction.

But the post-Congress Boehner has leaned into his image as a rebel with a cause — doing everything he could to foster the idea that he was beyond caring about what Trump or anyone else thought about him. In August 2020, amid speculation that he might endorse Joe Biden for president, a Boehner spokesman offered just the sort of devil-may-care attitude that Boehner has made his brand: “The answer is no. I think he’d rather set himself on fire than get involved in the election. Nothing to see here.”

Now, just because Boehner voted for Trump in 2020 doesn’t mean that he cares what Trump thinks or takes back all of the things he has said about the former President. Rarely does anyone — including Boehner — get the chance to vote for a candidate for president who they agree with on every issue. Or even on 90% of things. A vote for president is almost always about figuring out who you agree with more — not who you agree with totally.

What Boehner’s vote for Trump does mean, however, is that Democrats should probably press “pause” on the idea of Boehner as the last honest man in the Republican Party. Boehner is a longtime Republican — “I’m a conservative Republican,” he told Time — who, like so many other Republicans voted for the party, not the person, in 2020.

That anyone is surprised by that speaks to just how effective Boehner’s post-congressional rebranding has been.

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