Trump vs. ‘Freedom Caucus:’ Whom do you root for?

This had me shaking my head this morning:

President Trump effectively declared war Thursday on the House Freedom Caucus, the powerful group of hard-line conservative Republicans who blocked the health-care bill, vowing to “fight them” in the 2018 midterm elections.

In a morning tweet, Trump warned that the Freedom Caucus would “hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast.” He grouped its members, all of them Republican, with Democrats in calling for their political defeat — an extraordinary incitement of intraparty combat from a sitting president…

I just don’t feel like I’ve got a dog in that fight; do you? All I could think of to say was this:

Is this what American political discourse has become? A to-the-death battle between irrational fringe elements, with neither side having a clue how to run a government — or even any interest in doing so?

Look at what, thanks to gerrymandering, Republican primaries have become:

The ad battles are heating up in the 5th District special election, including one spot that calls out GOP lawmakers for “folding” on the Confederate flag.

Republican Sheri Few of Lugoff launched her first radio ad in the congressional race this week, attacking “weak Republicans” who voted to remove the Confederate flag at the S.C. State House in 2015 in the wake of the Charleston church massacre.

“I’m running for Congress to reject political correctness,” Few says in the ad, a 60-second spot airing in the Columbia market….

And for you aliens who are visiting our planet and trying to understand how our politics work, here’s the exlanation:

Few is competing for right-wing Republican voters in the May 2 primary, which is expected to have a low turnout…


Any of y’all ever have an extended conversation with Sheri Few? It’s… an experience.

I suppose I should note that she’s running for a seat vacated by a member of the “Freedom Caucus…”

Sheri Few/2008 file photo

Sheri Few/2008 file photo

18 thoughts on “Trump vs. ‘Freedom Caucus:’ Whom do you root for?

    1. Bob Amundson

      Maybe he’s not another Hitler, as some believe, but he is capable of making a “Hitlerian” mistake!

    2. bud

      Yep. Just ask the Germans. Tried it twice with the same outcome. Perhaps the Hitler comparison to Trump is uncalled for. But Kaiser Whilhelm may not be so out of line.

  1. Karen Pearson

    Those of you who are better historians than I: What has happened historically when parties have split so drastically? Is this the way new parties are born?

    1. Harry Harris

      Believe me, it’s not a big split. The TEA Party babies and libertarians have been holding the other Republicans hostage since 2010. It’s just that they were all “Waterlooing” Obama. Prior to the middle of the Clinton days it wasn’t usual for parties to vote in a bloc on every think. There were moderates with divergent views in both parties. They split with their party majorities on a number if votes. Trump just likely wants to use a threat to push that group to go along with a right-wing tax policy that doesn’t go as far toward 3rd world feudalism as they would like. It might be a feasible sell to the public if they can package it with enough me-first language and diversion to get middle class voters to not see the details or the big picture.

  2. bud

    Since Trump says the Freedom Caucus hurts the Republican legislative agenda I’ll be pulling for the Freedom Caucus. If there are any somewhat reasonable, pragmatic Republicans left we’ll be glad to welcome them into the Democratic fold. I doubt there are many left but every person who loves this country must work to defeat the evil red empire. The only way forward is as a Democrat.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      OK, I know it’s kind of pointless, but I’m just going to go ahead and say this…

      There are “reasonable, pragmatic Republicans” who simply do not agree with Democrats. That does not mean they are not reasonable, or not pragmatic. They just disagree, you see…

      1. bud

        You have a point. Reasonable, pragmatic Republican is an oxymoron. I don’t expect anyone in any party to agree with me completely. But to remain in a party that is so completely consumed by the elements of the alt-right fringe including a growing number of out and out racists doesn’t make sense to anyone who really believes in real American values. Continuing to maintain the farce that the GOP is the same as it was in the 70s or even 80s any longer just is not a tenable position to hold any longer.

      2. Scout

        For example, did anyone hear Bob Inglis on NPR yesterday (I think, it’s been a long week)? I might have yelled at the radio “run for something, I’ll vote for you.” Because yes, he seems like a reasonable pragmatic Republican.

  3. Harry Harris

    He could have gone after the so-called “moderates.” I think they want to build a bloc of hard-right and super-right and libertarians to get control of fiscal policy and do the tax “reform’ they have in mind. Watch for estate tax moves (to help the deserving top 1%), investment income more favorable treatment, repatriation amnesty for corporations and money hiders, with a deficit exploding “middle class” cut used as a sweetener (ask David Stockman) to get it through. They will claim the deficit explosion will be paid for by increased growth as Reagan claimed while almost tripling the national debt and more than tripling the annual deficit. It’s an old trickle-down trick. It’s easy to get GDP growth on a credit card; hard to do it on earnings unless the lowest-earning quartile is given most of the fiscal benefits. They have to spend the money in their communities.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        For you youngsters — David Stockman was Ronald Reagan’s Mick Mulvaney.

        He’s where we got “supply-side” and “trickle-down…”

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Oh, absolutely.

            I really disliked Stockman at the time, but as I typed that, I thought, “This is kind of an insult to Stockman.”

            But some of y’all keep giving me grief for unrelenting negativity toward Trump et al., so I didn’t add that thought…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Speaking of Stockman…

              He reminds me of something I’ve been confused about ever since sometime in 2001.

              And it’s probably based on my own memory slipping.

              When people first started using “neoconservative” a lot after 9/11, I was confused because I seemed to remember the term being used a good bit in the early ’80s, but meaning something very different.

              Mind you, in the early ’80s I was supervising news reporters, and didn’t worry about the intellectual underpinnings of events the way I would later as an editorialist. It was enough to get the who, what, where, when, how and sometimes why and get it right.

              So while I heard “neoconservative” a good bit, I didn’t think much, or at all, about what the term meant.

              Here’s the thing: I could swear that when I heard it back then, it seemed to be in the context of people like Stockman. It seemed to have to do with libertarian economic theory, concepts such as “trickle-down” and “supply-side.” But since I NEVER wrote about those things, being totally absorbed in the news of West Tennessee, I didn’t worry about it.

              I went no farther than thinking, It’s about that stuff Stockman talks about, and I don’t like it.

              Then, after I became an editorial page editor, I started hearing it again, and started digging into it, and found that now, the term referred to former liberals who left the Democratic/progressive fold after Vietnam. It was now associated with foreign policy, and from what I could tell, always had been.

              Not only that, but it represented notions about foreign policy that I agreed with — and that FDR, Truman, Ike and JFK would have agreed with as well. Basically, the bipartisan consensus about America’s role in the postwar world — at least, up to the point that so many Democrats abandoned it after Vietnam.

              So, I wonder… did “neocon” ever refer to economic ideas with which I disagreed?

              Just now, I googled Stockman and neocon and, near as I can tell, he feels antagonism toward neocons.

              What is it that I think I’m remembering?

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Aha! Found it. Obviously, I wasn’t looking hard enough:

                While neoconservatism is concerned primarily with foreign policy, there is also some discussion of internal economic policies. Neoconservatism generally endorses free markets and capitalism, favoring supply-side economics, but it has several disagreements with classical liberalism and fiscal conservatism: Irving Kristol states that neocons are more relaxed about budget deficits and tend to reject the Hayekian notion that the growth of government influence on society and public welfare is “the road to serfdom.”[91] Indeed, to safeguard democracy, government intervention and budget deficits may sometimes be necessary, Kristol argues.
                Further, neoconservative ideology stresses that while free markets do provide material goods in an efficient way, they lack the moral guidance human beings need to fulfill their needs. Morality can be found only in tradition, they say and, contrary to libertarianism, markets do pose questions that cannot be solved solely by economics. “So, as the economy only makes up part of our lives, it must not be allowed to take over and entirely dictate to our society.”[92] Critics consider neoconservatism a bellicose and “heroic” ideology opposed to “mercantile” and “bourgeois” virtues and therefore “a variant of anti-economic thought.”[93] Political scientist Zeev Sternhell states, “Neoconservatism has succeeded in convincing the great majority of Americans that the main questions that concern a society are not economic, and that social questions are really moral questions.”[94]

                So it was associated with “supply-side!” I wasn’t imagining it.

                But when I read the above… well, I kinda agree with the neocons on economics, too.


  4. Harry Harris

    One caveat you may find if you look at the roles of “neoconservatives” of today. They are infested with if not dominated by “chicken hawks,” a vocal group of ready supporters of military action who never served in the military and often avoided serving. My biggest (but not only) beef is the tendency to see too many problems as opportunities to use military threats or actions, dehumanize adversaries (foreign lives don’t matter), and tend lean toward militarism. Many remind me of the old comment “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

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