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The Freedom Caucus: Political Suicide in Action

Ryan Lizza has a fascinating piece in The New Yorker on the divided Republicans in the House and how the extremists in the Freedom Caucus forced Boehner’s resignation. It’s long and insightful as it chronicles the verbal dancing, the backroom maneuvering, the efforts to rally supporters on many issues. Lizza is rather kind to the Tea Party types who make up the Freedom Caucus. He follows classic journalistic tenets: be objective, report who said what to whom and when and let the reader figure out who are the good guys and who are the assholes.

The Freedom Caucus is presented as a solid group of House Members who wish to defund or repeal Obamacare, reduce the size of government, cut spending (except military), eliminate the deficit, cut taxes and fight against anything and everything that is initiated by the White House or proposed by any Democrat. In fact, at one point one of the group states that the thing he believes Congress needs to do is stop governing all the time.

As a good journalist Lizza lets his subjects hang themselves by their own words. He never asks any of the Caucus members he interviews the question that bounced right up the front of the long list I’d like answered:

Why are you doing this?

Really, why?

Can it be that this group honestly believes that the lives of Americans will be improved if their health care coverage is removed? That eliminating the services and support systems that government provides will improve the quality of life in America? That increasing military spending is a good thing? That cutting or eliminating spending on roads and bridges will make our lives better? That shutting down the government improved things? That defaulting on our debts would improve our standing in the world?

Oddly, nothing the Caucus members say gives even a hint that they believe these things or, worse, that they’ve even thought about them.

They are so hell-bent on opposing Obama and fighting against everything he has done or proposes to do that no thought is given to analyzing the long-term impact of their agenda. Obama is demonized and any Republican who even hints of compromise is immediately rendered suspect.

Their fanaticism is so perfect that they vigorously opposed the “trade promotion authority” bill because it gave the president too much influence over trade despite the fact that they have always been strong defenders of free trade. They so hate immigrants that they were willing to shut down the government unless all funds for processing them were deleted from the budget. They are so obsessed with Planned Parenthood that they refused to vote for essential pieces of legislation unless a clause was inserted defunding it. The fact that Obama said he would veto any bill that contained these poison pills fell on deaf ears.

So, yes, these extremists are even crazier than I thought. And by the end I realized Lizza’s genius. He just let the idiots talk and talk and with each statement, each remark they wove another silken strand into the noose they’re hanging around their own necks. This small band of fanatics has forced the Republicans in Washington further and further right. They’ve hijacked the agenda and unless saner voices can wrest control away or the electorate revolts and dumps these lunatics in ‘16 the GOP is doomed.

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