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Don't Call Them Conservatives, And They Aren't "Crazies;" They're Radicals With A Plan---and It's Working

September 28, 2015

By Joe Rothstein

You can say a lot about an agenda that would transform government by throwing overboard many of its most important services, but one thing you can’t call it is “conservative.”

The textbook definition of conservative is “cautious to change and innovation.” Those who call themselves collectively the House Freedom Caucus, are anything but “conservatives." A more apt description is “radical.”

Webster defines “radical” as “having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people.”

Most people do not share the idea that the entire government should be shut down because a minority of Congress disapproves of spending money for women’s health through Planned Parenthood. In fact, most people do not share the idea that government should be shut down for any reason.

Neither do most people agree that the federal government should sell or give away most of its federal lands, (as Republicans voted to do in April) or that the FAA should be turned into a private, for-profit company (as recommended by the chairman of the House Transportation Committee), or that the Departments of Education, Energy, EPA, IRS and other federal agencies should be abolished (Not just a Perry “oops” moment, but seriously proposed by many members of the Republican Right).

And most people surely don’t want to turn Medicare into a voucher program (as proposed by Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan) or Social Security turned over to the tender mercies of the private financial system (see Bush, George W. and how the GOP thought Bush’s reelection in 2004 gave them a mandate for this).

By no stretch of anyone’s imagination are these “conservative” initiatives. And until the media and the rest of us start calling them what they actually are, “radical,” what’s at stake in the Republican civil war will remain confusing.

John Boehner was unseated by a determined minority of Republican House members who united earlier this year under the banner of what they call the “House Freedom Caucus.” The group’s stated purpose: to “support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution, and the rule of law, and policies to promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.”

But it’s hard to get past the first word in that creed, “open,” without questioning the real purpose. Nowhere do you find a published list of goals. That’s quite an omission now that it appears this group will have more power to control the U.S. House. Go to the web sites of Freedom Caucus members and you find no clues there.

For example, here’s what Rep. David Bratt of Virginia, an economist who unseated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in last year’s Republican primary, has to say about the economy. “Economic growth and good jobs are important to both our district and the nation as a whole. Contact my office to learn more about my plans and views on this issue.”

“Contact my office to learn more about my plans and views on this issue,” is the preferred language for nearly every issue for nearly every Freedom Caucus member’s website I visited. Open? Transparent?

Transparency does not seem to be high on the Freedom Caucus agenda. Some believe that the reason the right-wing House members are reluctant to promote an agenda is because they don’t have one, that the Freedom Caucus, like its Tea Party antecedents, is just one violent political temper tantrum.

That’s giving the leaders of the Radical Right too little credit. A more persuasive argument is that they DO have an agenda. They don’t talk much about it because it would scare the daylights out of mainstream America.

While defunding Planned Parenthood got most of the attention leading up to Boehner’s resignation, the Radical Right’s assault in Congress is not anchored in social issues. It’s economic. Specifically, the goal is to do the real-life equivalent of what anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist has proposed: “I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

The beating heart of that effort is the abolition of Medicare and Social Security as government programs. That’s not something you’re going to see in blinking red lights on anyone’s web site.

New York Republican Congressman Peter King told CNN, after hearing Boehner announce his retirement, “I think it signals the crazies have taken over the party...remove a speaker of the House who’s second in line to be president, a constitutional officer in the middle of his term with no allegations of impropriety, a person who’s honest and doing his job. This has never happened before in our country.”

Crazies? I don’t think so. These people have an agenda and they’re getting closer to forcing it onto the rest of us. Crazy people can’t accomplish that. But Radicals might.

(Joe Rothstein can be contacted at

Joe Rothstein is a political strategist and media producer who worked in more than 200 campaigns for political office and political causes. He also has served as editor of the Anchorage Daily News and as an adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA. Mr. Rothstein is the author of award-winning political thrillers, The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her, The Salvation Project, and The Moment of Menace. For more information, please visit his website at