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What President Trump Doesn’t Get About the Freedom Caucus

Ever since then-Speaker of the House John Boehner told conservatives to “get your ass in line” behind his fake 2011 spending and debt ceiling bill, it has been an article of faith among establishment media pundits that conservatives in the House are Washington’s biggest problem.

President Trump seemed to channel former Speaker Boehner when last Thursday he tweeted, “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Donald TrumpDems, in 2018!”

The establishment Republican leadership version of that calumny was spoken recently by Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, who told the New York Times, “We have to do some soul-searching internally to determine whether or not we are even capable of functioning as a governing body… If ‘no’ is your goal, it’s the easiest goal in the world to reach.”

The problem for President Trump, former Speaker Boehner, current Speaker Paul Ryan and establishment Republicans like North Dakota’s Representative Cramer is that Freedom Caucus opposition to their dime store Democrat policies is not about “governing,” it is about “representing” what their constituents want the federal government to do or not do.

As Jessica Taylor put for KNBA.org, “Throughout the recent debate over the GOP health care bill, many Freedom Caucus members stood up and said the bill was not what they or their constituents had in mind when they promised for seven years to repeal Obamacare. To them, it left too many of the problems with Affordable Care Act in place, including tax credits and subsidies and expanding Medicaid.”

Ms. Taylor went on to observe that:

An analysis from Republican pollster Chris Wilson of WPA Research, who worked for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, found that support for the GOP bill, the American Health Care Act, was at very low levels in districts of Freedom Caucus members. "House Freedom Caucus members held the line, and the data show that is precisely what their constituents wanted," Wilson wrote in an analysis. A Quinnipiac University poll showed that the bill only had 17 percent support nationally.

Freedom Caucus members won their districts last November by bigger margins than Trump, too.
(CHQ emphasis) An NPR analysis found that the roughly 30 members of the conservative caucus won reelection by an average of almost 37 points. Trump, however, carried their districts by about 26 points.

In fact, noted Taylor, the bigger threat for them was if they had supported the GOP bill. (CHQ emphasis)

Conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action had planned to keynote the health care vote — meaning that if they'd supported the Trump-Ryan bill, their cumulative conservative score would have taken a hit on the groups' annual scorecard and given ammunition to a primary challenger running against them from the right.

Ultimately, the political sin that Trump is claiming here of not signing onto his much-criticized bill is unlikely to be a negative with voters in these very conservative districts, says Taylor. Instead, it's only likely to help the House Freedom Caucus with voters — many of whom may only be more skeptical of Trump's conservative bona fides, even if they did vote for him.

"I think it is, at this point, unproductive," Wilson, the GOP pollster, said of Trump threatening primary challengers against Freedom Caucus members. "He would be far better off inviting them to the White House and crafting a piece of legislation that has a better chance of passage."

Wilson and Taylor have it exactly right.

What President Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that when establishment Republicans talk about “governing” and “legislating” what they really mean is growing government at a slightly slower pace or to benefit a different set of cronies than the Democrats would if they were in power. Freedom Caucus members were elected to stand against this kind of Democrats-light establishment Republicanism, and we thought President Trump was too.

We urge our conservative readers to contact the White House through this link. Tell the President conservatives, especially the House Freedom Caucus, saved him by helping to kill Ryancare, and it’s time to sit down with them to craft a repeal and replace bill that does what the President and Freedom Caucus members both campaigned on.

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