ANALYSIS: Why the House Speaker Drama Should Scare You

The unprecedented tumult sets up a scary period on Capitol Hill and well beyond.

— -- It will go down as one of the supreme ironies of this era in politics that the same forces that empowered Republicans to near-record gains in Congress consumed the very people tapped to lead those majorities.

A House that can’t elect a leader can hardly be expected to fund the government and raise the debt limit, much less deal with crises that aren’t self-inflicted. Governing in the year before a presidential election is hard enough when the governing bodies have leaders actually in place.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., himself considering a run for the job, said the fact is that no individual could muster the number of votes needed to be elected, leaving the House essentially stuck and without a plan.

"If they could get 218 today,” Westmoreland said Thursday afternoon, “they would be a magician.”

The next speaker will need something in the realm of magic to successfully navigate the next few months. Key votes loom on keeping government running and allowing the treasury to repay debts already accrued -– fundamental functions of Congress that seem impossibly difficult in the current climate.

The tea party-aligned House Freedom Caucus is in no mood to compromise, fresh off of what its members view as victories based on principled stands. The diminished band of establishment and moderate Republicans, meanwhile, are warning against giving ground to what they view as extreme elements.

“Two speakers lost in two weeks,” he said. “The establishment lost twice.”

“This institution cannot grind to a halt,” Boehner said Friday, firmly and somewhat hopefully.

Another irony not lost on House members is that the forces that loathe Boehner may wind up keeping him around a while longer. Suddenly, the dysfunction that seemed to prevail just weeks ago doesn’t look so bad by comparison.