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When ‘Conservatives’ Become Radicals

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When ‘Conservatives’ Become Radicals


If the self-styled Republican “Freedom Caucus” understood the first thing about the United States Constitution they profess to revere, they’d recognize that it’s a conservative document purposely crafted to frustrate radicals like them. As men of the 18th century, the Founding Fathers were deeply suspicious of what they called “enthusiasm,” most commonly defined as God-intoxicated certitude.

Certitude of the kind recently expressed by former Arkansas governor and putative GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: “The race for Speaker of the House is not about Kevin McCarthy, it’s about burning the corrupt Washington political machine to the ground and rebuilding our country.”

Even granting that Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, was speaking metaphorically, his voice is that of a fanatic or a child. During the 1960s of legend and song, only the crackpot leftists of the SDS and the Progressive Labor Party talked about setting fires. Now it’s old white codgers listening to Mark Levin and shaking their fists at Fox News.

Huckabee’s not a “conservative” at all, except in the contorted meaning of the term brought into use by the Freedom Caucus, Chicken Little Brigade, or whatever they’re calling themselves this week. He’s also not a real presidential candidate. Huckabee has no more chance of being nominated than your humble, obedient servant here, who rarely leaves the farm. Like several Republican candidates, what he’s really about is peddling his dreadful ghost-written books. Presumably Huckabee himself knows all that, even if his gullible followers do not.

But let GOP-oriented New York Times columnist David Brooks explain: “Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic, and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.”

It was bad enough under President Bill Clinton, a moderate Southerner. But the election of Barrack Hussein Obama, a black man with a multicultural background and a funny name, drove the Chicken Little Brigade clear around the bend. The willingness of publicity seekers like Donald Trump to traffic in conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace and religion did the rest.

“Obama created the Tea Party,” a Republican lobbyist told The Nation’s William Grieder. “We told people that Obama was a dangerous socialist who was going to wreck America and he had to be stopped, when really we knew he was a moderate Democrat, not all that radical… But they believed us.”

The “Freedom Caucus” not only can’t govern, they don’t appear to believe in governance. Hence the 58 futile show votes to repeal Obamacare, which accomplished absolutely nothing in real political terms. “This hell-no caucus — the degree of purity that they’re looking for doesn’t exist,” former Senate GOP leader Trent Lott of Mississippi told the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty. “I’m sure they’re nice people, but Washington is not a place where you can come in off the street and make it work.”

Trent Lott is a Mississippi Republican, but he’s not “conservative” enough for the Chicken Little Brigade! But then Lott accepts political reality: Obamacare repeal can’t pass in the Senate, and even if it did, President Obama — re-elected in 2012 by more than 5 million votes — would veto it.

See, that’s what we were all supposed to have learned in ninth-grade civics: That the whole point of having three branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial — was to prevent the concentration of power, to make change incremental, and compromise essential.

As former Rep. Barney Frank puts it in a thoughtful essay in Politico: “We are at any given time governed by the results of the past three elections. The House of Representatives in Washington today contains only people elected in 2014, but they share power with a president elected in 2012, and senators chosen one-third in 2010, one-third in 2012 and one-third in 2014.”

But then if you’ve read this far, you already knew that. Unable to win by normal political means, the “Freedom Caucus” proposes government by televised melodrama: threatening yet another government shutdown or even a default on the national debt — risking a financial crisis far worse than 2008 — to blackmail the president into doing its bidding on issues from Obamacare to Planned Parenthood.

Cable TV news ratings would go through the roof! Until the roof fell in, that is. However, the U.S. Constitution allows for a simple remedy: There are a whole lot more Democrats in the House of Representative than “Freedom Caucus” members. All that’s necessary is for Speaker Boehner to exhibit the political courage to cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi, scheduling votes on issues of bipartisan agreement such as the debt limit.

And the show would be over — just like that.

Photo: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R) and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) speak to reporters at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington October 7, 2015.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron    

Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate. A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows. Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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  1. Eleanore Whitaker October 14, 2015

    Oh puhlease….Be skeeeeeeeeeered of the good ole good ole Mutton Chops and Corn Pones? All radicals are lunatics who repeat themselves over and over. In mental institutions, that’s a residual effect of the CONman boozer DTs. Afraid of the Conservatives? Not on your life. If anything, the CONmen will be lucky to have a president elected in the next 100 years.

    1. Jmz Nesky October 14, 2015

      If they keep their lies, mud slinging and lack of cooperation up, eventually a future generation will believe them.. Warn your children to warn their children else it could come sooner than we would ever want it to.

      1. Eleanore Whitaker October 15, 2015

        Actually, the reverse has always been true. I’m proof of that. I was a teen and young adult in the 60s. We began to question what the history books told us. But, in those days, dare to question and you set off a firestorm of denial from parents. It was due to our 60s rebellions and protests that our parents from the 40s generations loathed the ideas of change. Sound familiar? Their ideas were to just “go along, right or wrong.” That wasn’t good enough for us.

        What I see of most 20 somethings is the same thing with the same responses from their 50 something enabler parents. “Just go along and don’t make waves.”

        What goes around, always comes around. Teach children packs of lies and they soon figure out that the lies make no sense.

        When Texas allowed books in their schools that rewrote the history of slavery in the south, they knew they were teaching children lies. But, here’s the joke. This is also one of the most fundamentally religious states. So, they lie to their kids and then ram religion that tells them NOT to lie down their kids throats? And the kids won’t soon realize what a sham their parents are handing them?

        Some of today’s middle aged parents are far more invested in themselves than their kids. It’s the reason my generation has more of an affinity with our grandkids than their own parents.

        Parents who go around displaying bad or contradictory examples to their kids, rue the day they played a role.

  2. John Murchison October 14, 2015

    How long before the GOP completely collapses? Looks like it won’t be long now.

    1. FireBaron October 14, 2015

      From you lips…

      1. John Murchison October 14, 2015

        GOP leaders are dropping like flies and those that remain would rather dismantle government then govern it. It is getting more and more difficult to see how their party will survive the next election.

  3. FireBaron October 14, 2015

    Unfortunately, Boehner is enough of a coward that he won’t dare go against the “Hastert Principle” to schedule such a vote, even knowing it would pass. Of course, the true irony of that is it wasn’t even Denny Hastert’s idea. It was forced on him by his Lord and Master – Tom DeLay.

    1. bobnstuff October 14, 2015

      Wouldn’t it be great if he did man up and start governing. He has nothing to lose, he has already said he is leaving the office. Now is the time to put down those that wanted him out. It only takes 40 or 50 men to destroy our country.

      1. ave ngangel October 14, 2015

        Agree. Boehner should retract his resignation, toss the Hastert Rule and bring to the floor whatever he wants.

    2. plc97477 October 14, 2015

      The irony gets stronger in that neither hastert not delay are men with high enough ideals that anyone should follow their lead.

  4. CrankyToo October 14, 2015

    Question: How can you tell that you’ve been sucked thru a time-space warp into a parallel universe?

    Answer: Dirtbag con men like David Brooks and Trent Lott start making sense.

    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro…

    1. Daniel Jones October 14, 2015

      Quoting St. Gonzo, are we?

      Well, I don’t blame you, because in these polarized times, we’re actually getting the kind of governance he foretold in his wilder tales.

      Over in fan fiction, *Transmetropolitan* fan fiction writer Simon Field penned a few tales depicting articles protagonist Spider Jerusalem might have written (after committing the heinous actions inclusive in his retaliation against corrupt politics), and the way he wrote was very.. gonzo.

      I mention this as he said one thing Doctor Thompson might have said had he lived to this day and age–in a democracy, we tend to get the government we deserve.

      Basically, if we let these wholly corporate or flaky morons do this crap, we deserve every harm it inflicts.

      We can’t forget. We can’t let it slide anymore. We have to put a stop to this bad craziness, and elect people that won’t pull this bullshit on us. Or so help us, we’ll get the Hell we deserve.

      1. CrankyToo October 14, 2015

        I absolutely concur. And I’ll see you at the polls next year when we throw the odious Turd Party a beating it will never forget.

    2. Eleanore Whitaker October 15, 2015

      Lott had to leave his political career. Doesn’t say much for his sense of common decency or honor. David Brooks has always been in the Rove Frat Boy Club.

  5. Otto Greif October 14, 2015

    Better get used to it, the real right is rising.

    1. CrankyToo October 14, 2015

      You don’t seem to be paying attention…

    2. midway54 October 14, 2015

      Who are its leaders and where is it dominant at the moment?

      1. David October 14, 2015

        Uhhh….the Senate and House?

        1. midway54 October 14, 2015

          sI wouldn’t know. Otto has not replied to my question.

          1. ave ngangel October 14, 2015
          2. midway54 October 15, 2015

            Thanks for the list of those whom I would call the usual suspects, and am surprised that there were no more members from Florida, which is a nest of rednecks and crackpot teabaggers. Jordan of Ohio, representing the southwesterly area composed mainly of low-information dupes, is loud, rude and obnoxious in every committee hearing toward witnesses who are not, like him, shameless,blatant servants of the plutocrats.

    3. Kajsa Williams October 14, 2015

      Save the hyper-emotional fireworks for football games. This is OUR country we’re trying to run.

      1. Otto Greif October 14, 2015

        You should ask them to adjust your medication.

        1. Kajsa Williams October 14, 2015

          Next he will tell me that my mother is ugly. How mature and focused!!!!

      2. tomtype October 15, 2015

        Our can mean both everyone or just the members of a small group. The usual number of 40 attributed to the Freedom Caucus is only our in the most limited sense and leaves out the majority’s “our country.” They are obviously only meaning the whole country belongs to a small group, rather than all the people.

    4. Mr Corrections October 15, 2015

      Well, you’ll have to clarify how exactly they’re rising this time – like the Nazis in pre-WWII Germany, the Fascists in pre-WWII Italy, or the traitor Confederates pre-Civil War? Do you imagine that somehow, this time, you won’t have your asses kicked as thoroughly as every previous time you’ve “risen”?

  6. Kajsa Williams October 14, 2015

    David Brooks has done the country an incredible favor. The radical take over of the GOP has suddenly become a topic for non-heated intelligent discussion. Everyone who has a political memory that goes back 30 years or more knows that there has been a radical change in the GOP. It’s about time this issue got moderate headline coverage.

    For me, it would be great to see moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans get together, form a majority, and support a moderate Speaker of the House.

    1. plc97477 October 14, 2015

      My hope is that they repugs will be so busy fighting each other that the dem can slip in under the wire and we can finally get things done.

      1. Mr Corrections October 15, 2015

        By “slip under the wire”, you mean that the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the population will be fulfilled despite rampant gerrymandering and vote suppression.

  7. 788eddie October 14, 2015

    I would love to know names of the members of the “Freedom Caucus.”

    So far, they seem to have hidden behind their anonymity, brave souls that they are. Let’s attach names and faces to this group of “American Anarchists.”

    1. Kajsa Williams October 14, 2015

      Maybe there’s a reason that they won’t disclose their names. Maybe it has something to do with embarrassment.

      1. Jmz Nesky October 14, 2015

        It has nothing to do with embarrassment, look how they’ve operated up to this point.. No, it involves the outrageous actions of criminality and treachery that makes them hide their faces..

    2. Robert Hunt October 15, 2015

      I found this, though one or two, I believe, may have bolted since this was put together.http://dailysignal.com/2015/09/29/who-are-the-mysterious-members-of-the-house-freedom-caucus/

      1. 788eddie October 16, 2015

        Great! Thanks, Robert. We need to hunt these guys down at the polls, and they need to be “Primaried” out of existence (for the better of our country).

  8. greenlantern1 October 14, 2015

    President Abraham Lincoln bolted from the Republican party!
    He formed the UNION party!
    He chose Andrew Johnson to be his VP!
    The RADICAL REPUBLICANS, their designation, impeached Lincoln’s VP!
    Perfectly clear?

  9. jamesowens October 14, 2015

    they like the westboro Baptist chuch members will spout off but wont show their face want to be heard but afraid to stand for what

  10. Bill October 14, 2015

    John Boehner didn’t have the courage to do the job when he had it, he won’t find it now that he’s leaving.

    1. Mr Corrections October 15, 2015

      That’s true, but can you really blame him? He’s at least got the base decency not to want to actively destroy the nation in the pursuit of an impossible level of ideological purity.

      1. Mr Corrections October 15, 2015

        (don’t get me wrong, he’s still a loathsome cretin)

      2. Bill October 15, 2015

        I do blame him, by not standing up to the fringe of his party he hurt everyone.

        1. Mr Corrections October 16, 2015

          I’m by no means disagreeing with that assessment, and there’s definitely a level of what could be seen as cosmic justice in play here. I’m simply trying to explain his motivations, which are largely, but not entirely, based in personal selfishness.

  11. oldlion October 14, 2015

    The Republicans are great at getting elected, not so great at governance. Thanks to gerrymandering their districts and voter suppression they are almost guaranteed of re-election. Sad state of affairs. Perhaps the sane wing of the party will finally grow tired of the Teahadists, grow a spine and do what is right for the country. Crazy thought, eh?

    1. Mr Corrections October 15, 2015

      I genuinely believe that good governing is possible when progressives and genuine conservatives have to compromise. My *mother* is a conservative, ffs, and I trust and respect her – but she wants nothing to do with the current GOP. Whatever the Republicans are currently doing has nothing to do with conservatism, and everything to do with extremism (which is kind of the point of this article).

  12. Whatmeworry October 14, 2015

    Really??? The founders were AFRAID of big govt and enumerated what powers it would have. If they came back today they would be aghast that we now have a King ruling by fiat

    1. Mr Corrections October 15, 2015

      Good news! That’s a completely insane misreading of the current political ecosystem!

    2. Robert Hunt October 15, 2015

      I see you hide your profile. Many people are paid to post on these sites, I am not. Are you?

  13. KarenJ October 15, 2015

    “Obama created the Tea Party,” a Republican lobbyist told The Nation’s William Grieder. “We told people that Obama was a dangerous socialist who was going to wreck America and he had to be stopped, when really we knew he was a moderate Democrat, not all that radical… But they believed us.”

    Get that? “Obama created the Tea Party”. Even when a lobbyist is admitting, as did Kevin McCarthy on the goal of the Gowdy committee, that the GOP planned to undermine President Obama or Dems, they blame HIM!!

    Gawd, can’t these POSs take full responsibility for ANYTHING?

  14. Robert Hunt October 15, 2015

    The founders didn’t deal with large international organizations, but had seen what weak government had done under the “Articles of Confederation,” and reinforced their view of government in the Whiskey Rebellion. Article 1 section 8 was put in specifically to lay out the government’s role in protecting the “general welfare,”even before the very active threat of corporate domination appeared to be the principal threat to that government and the people of this nation. Whatmeworry, yes REALLY! look up your history. You should be studying before you toss around fictions that the GOP uses to promote their profits above nation agenda.


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