Many establishment types are circulating this article today with much accompanying consternation and tut tutting. The basic gist of the complaints is that the House Freedom Caucus should not be picking a public fight with Speaker Ryan heading into an election in which the House Majority might well be in jeopardy. The theory is that the Freedom Caucus should aid in presenting a united front heading into the election to make sure Republicans remain in the majority, then pick whatever bones they might have with Ryan.
I guess you can quibble with the timing of talking to the press about something like this, or the particulars of some of the things the Freedom Caucus members have said, if you want. I think that really ignores the context in which these discussions are taking place. They just watched one of their own (Tim Huelskamp) get absolutely crushed by Chamber of Commerce money in a primary with the willing acquiescence of Republican leadership.
Huelskamp’s scalp was a reprisal for having dared to join the anti-Boehner rebellion that brought Ryan into power in the first place, as well as for opposing the loathsome agriculture subsidies industry and being #NeverTrump. In other words, for having actual conservative instincts. And the message has gone out to the Freedom Caucus members that Ryan and the rest of leadership intend to break their voting bloc by defeating as many of them in primaries as is necessary to bring them in line. And the Chamber is willing to bankroll this play basically for as long as it takes, so the party’s hands don’t even have to get officially dirty.
So it’s fight or die time for the Freedom Caucus members. And I have to tell you, the argument that the House Majority is worth keeping at all is a less compelling one to me with the idea that it will be a Majority that no longer has to be concerned about what the Freedom Caucus might do. But hey, maybe you disagree. Maybe you think a 10-seat House Majority (a hopelessly optimistic projection at this point) shorn of its conservative conscience will be a tremendously effective check against President Hillary; but I believe that as little as I believe that Donald Trump will appoint brilliant conservative justices to the Supreme Court, in the unlikely event that he manages to win.
Now, I am not saying I want Paul Ryan to lose the Speakership. I was glad when he defeated nutjob Paul Nehlen. I will admit he’s probably the most conservative Speaker of the House we have ever had. But I am saying that I want the Freedom Caucus to continue to fight for their right to wield influence in the caucus, in the hope that Ryan can be worked with.