Friday, September 6, 2013

Opposition to Syria intervention inspires FreedomWorks to change long-standing policy

Forward? Or For War? Is this the new "red line"?
As POLITICO reported yesterday, conservative organization FreedomWorks had taken the unusual step of publicly opposing the congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force in Syria, and would consider it a "key vote" in its next round of congressional scorecards.

I say "unusual" step because before now, FreedomWorks has maintained a strict policy of staying out of foreign policy issues. It's a risk for political organizations to venture into new philosophical territory, because they build relationships with supporters, stakeholders, and donors based on their areas of expertise and influence, and they may endanger those relationships if the organization takes on new issues and their supporters don't agree with them. 

FreedomWorks has never shied from tough issues or uphill battles before, backing apparent long-shot candidates like current Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and being one of the loudest voices in opposition to ObamaCare, but I'd heard many times directly from FreedomWorks staff that foreign policy and national security issues were not their game. I was curious what led FreedomWorks to step forward on Syria, and contacted Jackie Bodnar, FreedomWorks Director of Communications. Here is what she told me:
"We have received overwhelming amounts of concern from our membership about the financial implications of military involvement in Syria. History has shown that Congressional promises of short-term military engagement often lead to long-term spending and debt. Because this resolution threatens to jeopardize the economic stability of the US, it's a domestic fiscal issue just as much as a foreign policy issue. Our activists want to be heard loud and clear in Washington- tackle the red ink at home, not the arbitrary red lines abroad."
Framing the issue in this way - as a potentially expensive boondoggle that would affect the national debt - makes sense in light of FreedomWorks' extensive work on debt and spending issues. The POLITICO article also mentioned that FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe told them that the organization had been "overwhelmed" with requests from activists wanting them to take a stand against military involvement in Syria. This is noteworthy because, again, FreedomWorks has not ever taken action on these issues and was not soliciting comments from their networks, as they traditionally do with many issues. 

For FreedomWorks to get so many unsolicited comments from so many independent individuals indicates that opposition to the Syria resolution is very strong and deep in the conservative grassroots, and Republican members of Congress would be well-advised to consider that as they vote next week.

FreedomWorks has set up a website here where people can contact their Congressional representatives here, and released an official statement this morning, stating that they would be "issuing a Key Vote 'NO' against the Syria resolution, and mobilizing activists to contact Congressional offices to demand their Representatives address the 'red ink' at home, not arbitrary 'red lines' abroad. Kibbe is quoted as saying, "America's international credit is more important than President Obama's rhetorical credibility. We urge Congress to vote against military action abroad at the expense of American prosperity at home."

See also: this viciously logical post by Rick Wilson at Ricochet, Dear Congress: Welcome to Pottery Barn, and a perfect Onion satire, Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria.

Follow me on Twitter at @rumpfshaker


  1. While it's nice to have FreedomWorks on board on this important issue, this is not the first time the organization has taken "unusual" steps -- the attempt to hijack the Senate primary race here in Florida fits the bill As scientists have learned, elephants do indeed have long memories.

    1. We're going to have to agree to disagree on this issue, Tom. Failing to back candidates who had no chance of winning the primary was not "attempting to hijack" that race.

  2. I'm glad to see Freedomworks take this step to help let Congress know the American people don't trust Obama about attacking Syria.


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