"Grifters in our midst": Watch out for the rabble-rousers in the Freedom Caucus, says Dan Crenshaw

What’s gotten into him?

Back in August he truthbombed a “stop the steal” heckler at a fundraiser, assuring him there was no way to commit election fraud on the scale needed to provide Biden’s margin of victory over Trump. Now here he is calling out the Marjorie Taylor Greene wing of the House GOP for being grifters. Why does Crenshaw want to scrap with populist trolls, knowing that Trump’s on their side and they’re eager to find primary challengers for their critics?

I think it’s a combination of sincere full-spectrum disdain for the trolls in his caucus and a specific grievance he has against them.

If you’re curious about his evidence for Kinzinger’s voting record, he’s getting it from FiveThirtyEight’s “Trump Score” for members of the 115th Congress. He’s correct that Kinzinger voted with Trump 99 percent of the time, along with 20 other Republicans who voted with Trump as often or more often. Liz Cheney voted with Trump 95.8 percent of the time. Down at the bottom of the caucus, voting with Trump 82 percent of the time or less, were Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, and Thomas Massie.

Which doesn’t matter from a standpoint of Trumpist authenticity, right? MAGA isn’t about policy, it’s about angering liberals. And no doubt Gaetz etc. were voting against Trump mainly on stuff like omnibus spending bills, which Trump signed to avert a government shutdown but which populists were free to oppose in order to signal their purity to the base, knowing their votes weren’t needed for passage.

Anyway, Crenshaw’s never been a MAGA guy. In fact, he was a Trump critic in 2016 before realizing that the party was becoming a personality cult and chronic disloyalty would make his congressional career a short one. He’s in the same politically uncomfortable place as Nancy Mace is, someone who’s clearly not a Trumpist at heart but has to keep quiet about it most of the time — except every now and then they can’t resist voicing their contempt for the trolls who insist on antagonizing them. It’s probably not a coincidence that Crenshaw is a decorated veteran and Mace, famously, was the first woman graduate of the Citadel. They may have more difficulty suppressing their sense of honor in the name of getting ahead professionally than the average House Republican careerist (e.g., Kevin McCarthy) does.

But Crenshaw’s not swinging at the MAGA caucus just for fun here. He’s responding to a particular attack populists are mounting against him, accusing him of supporting a bill that would allow the federal government to find out who has and hasn’t been vaccinated. At the same event where the clip above was recorded, he told the audience, “You heard online that 80 Republicans voted to track you in a vaccine database. If it sounds too ridiculous to be true, it’s probably not true.” It’s extremely on-brand for the GOP in 2021 for a war hero to have to worry about being primaried because he’s supposedly too cozy with pro-vaxxers, but for the record, Crenshaw claims the bill he supported would do the opposite of what his populist critics contend:

Crenshaw notes that the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed by Congress “without a single GOP vote” last March had already included funds for existing state-level vaccine databases, but without any safeguards or limitations on data collected.

Republicans who voted for H.R. 550 however, say the legislation requires all states receiving funds to bolster cybersecurity and prevent existing state systems from sharing individual vaccine data with the federal government.

“It is explicitly designed to improve data security and privacy protection. Republicans were rightly worried about this, which is why H.R. 550 was crafted with clear privacy safeguards to correct it,” said Crenshaw in a statement to The Texan. “We didn’t want authoritarian blue-state governors transmitting personal vaccination information to the [Centers for Disease Control] CDC, or have a hacker steal personal vaccine data.”…

Crenshaw notes he has introduced legislation to prohibit federal agencies requiring vaccine passports for interstate commerce, and supported other resolutions opposing vaccine mandates.

He also claims that he’s getting a bad rap on supposedly supporting “red flag” gun laws. There was a provision about red flag laws in a military spending bill he voted for but that was part of a deal in which the red flag section would be stripped out before the final bill was voted on. And it was stripped out, Crenshaw insists; the bill they’re voting on this week contains no such regulations.

My guess is that the criticism of Crenshaw from the right over the so-called vaccine database and red flag laws is mostly axe-grinding over disloyalty to Trump. Same with Mace: Despite her best efforts to keep her head down and vote the way MAGA wants, her original sin as a Trump-era Republican congresswoman was refusing to object to the counting of swing-state electoral votes on January 6. Crenshaw also declined to object. If the two of them were hardcore election truthers, the supreme litmus test of Trumpist identification, their alleged sins on policy could be overlooked. But they aren’t so they can’t. We’ll see if either of them pays with their career next year.

Here’s Crenshaw’s video response to critics of the vaccine database, something he probably felt obliged to record because misinformation spreads most aggressively online. The only way to counter it is with an online rebuttal.