House Freedom Caucus demonstrates leadership
© Greg Nash

In recent days, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative House Republicans, has outmaneuvered the House Republican leadership team, and breathed new life into a stagnant GOP.

By forcing BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE’s (R-Ohio) resignation, and Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) withdrawal from the race to replace him, the small group of conservatives demonstrated the very leadership competencies that House Speaker Boehner so clearly lacks.


For years, disaffected Republicans have been frustrated by a glaring lack of results from the GOP House leadership. Boehner and his team could never win a battle with the White House when outgunned. They have consistently played prevent defense, and, a​s I wrote last month,​ blamed their lack of success on a lack of votes. Boehner never understood that, as in poker, you can win in politics even when you don’t hold all the cards​.​ Instead, he seemed to always be waiting for a fifth ace, before he was willing to play a hand.

So while the m​edia sees chaos ​in the House GOP, I see signs of new life in a group of leaders emerging who know how to get results. For now, their victories are within the party, but when the dust settles, I look forward to seeing them pivot their attention, and political skill, toward the White House.

In their latest coups, the Freedom Caucus has demonstrated excellent use of three key skills that we need our political leaders to possess:

First, these conservatives understood the basic principle of any effective force. To win, you must set clear strategic objectives. They recognized that Boehner and his team would never be effective, even with control of the House, and made his removal a priority.

Second, they demonstrated the ability to play the long game. There was nothing sudden about this coup. Leaders of the Freedom Caucus, like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), ​have been laying the groundwork for a long time. Republicans can outmaneuver the president, but we need leaders who can think several moves ahead.

Finally, they showed a creative understanding of leverage that Boehner lacked. With insufficient votes, and no real systemic power, this team is winning. How? Through a more creative understanding of political leverage. We don’t yet know everything that happened behind the scenes, but their effective use of public communication, unity and back room pressure is obvious. By remaining unified, they threw McCarthy’s election as new Speaker of the House into question. That multiplied their power tremendously. Then, they leveraged that power further through effective use of the media to frame McCarthy’s candidacy and pressure him out.

Republican voters are starved for victories. T​hey are eager for leaders with fresh perspective, broad experience outside of Washington, and an optimistic vision for America. By defeating Boehner and McCarthy, the House Freedom Caucus has shown us what effective politics looks like. ​Now it’s time for the house to rally around new leadership who understands political power, and will put it to work against President Obama.

Halvorson is a Republican from Pennsylvania who is mounting a primary challenge to Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the Transportation Committee, to represent the state’s 9th Congressional District.