Why Does the Freedom Caucus Tell Its Members How to Vote?
By Albert Sommers
On May 5, in Jackson, I had the opportunity to attend the Wyoming Republican Central Committee’s evening event, hosted by the Teton County Grand Old Party (GOP) and visit with many old friends from Teton County and around the state.
I enjoyed the visit with friends and the words from the event speaker Rob Wallace, President Trump’s assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Rob spoke about the history of the Republican Party and how Republicans accomplished a great deal working together. His message was much different than recent Freedom Caucus townhalls and opinion pieces, which disparage fellow Republicans in a thirst for power.
The Republican Party has always been an odd collection of ideals and passions, with a philosophy centered on the idea of conservatism.
Abraham Lincoln best defined “conservatism” in his Cooper Institute speech when he said, “What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?”
Barry Goldwater, one of the founders of the modern conservative movement, best described the diversity of people within the Republican Party in his 1964 Republican presidential nomination acceptance speech stating, “This is a party, this Republican Party, a party for free men, not for blind followers and not for conformists.”
Back in 1858, Abraham Lincoln said this of the Republican Party – and I quote him because he probably could have said it during the last week or so, “It was composed of strained, discordant and even hostile elements.Yet, all of these elements agreed on one paramount objective – to arrest the progress of slavery and place it in the course of ultimate extinction.”
I believe Wyoming Republicans remain “a party for free men and women, not blind followers and not conformists.”
Yet, the media, hardline conservative pundits, state party leaders and the Freedom Caucus want to push all Republicans into the round hole of conformism when we are truly the square peg of diversity.
When Republicans bulge out of the margins, these pundits accuse us of being fringe libertarians, the religious right, moderates, RINOs and liberals. This vicious discord marginalizes and weakens the Wyoming Republican Party.
We Republicans should once again consider the wisdom of Barry Goldwater on the issue of differing opinions as expressed in his 1964 acceptance speech.
He said, “The beauty of the very system we Republicans are pledged to restore and revitalize, the beauty of this federal system of ours is in its reconciliation of diversity with unity. We must not see malice in honest differences of opinion, and no matter how great, so long as they are not inconsistent with the pledges we have given to each other in and through our Constitution.”
“Our Republican cause is not to level out the world or make its people conform in computer regimented sameness. Our Republican cause is to free our people and light the way for liberty throughout the world,” he continued.
So, why do some elements of the Wyoming Republican Party, including the Freedom Caucus, want all Republicans to conform to a narrowly defined dogma? Why does the Freedom Caucus tell its members how to vote each day during the legislative session? Why do they incite fear and stoke anger?
Wyomingites are independent thinkers, so why does the Freedom Caucus pander to a national agenda, instead of seeking Wyoming solutions to Wyoming problems?
History has shown when political philosophy is elevated to a dogma, the result can be fascism, theocracies and communism. Diversity of opinion and the right to freely express those opinions is the foundation of this nation.
Republicans should guard against conforming to any narrow dogma.
In order to effectively govern Wyoming, we Republicans must remember our interactions with each other need to be a conversation, not a monologue.
We must respect each other and act with more civility if we are to find the common ground necessary to solve the greatest challenges facing Wyoming. We Republicans must remember we are not enemies, we are Wyomingites.
Albert Sommers is the Wyoming Speaker of the House. He can be reached by visiting wyoleg.gov. This opinion column was originally published in Cowboy State Daily on May 19.