Justin Amash and the myth of tea-party conservatism

It is also as good a reminder as any that the Obama-era Tea Party movement that died with Trump’s election was not about any of the things its participants claimed to be interested in. Limited government, cutting entitlements? Nobody would actually vote for us if we got rid of that stuff. Reining in deficit spending? We’d rather cut taxes. The Constitution? It means what we need it to. Pretending that the all-powerful American president is some kind of glorified European prime minister with few if any broadly defined powers or prerogatives who should spend his days quietly sitting at a desk waiting for tricorn-hatted citizen-statesmen to send him patriotic legislation to consider? Please, that’s only something we do when the guy in the White House is an uppity minority with a terrorist-sounding name. Holding the White House accountable with scare-mongering hearings that call the president’s legitimacy into question? Bo-ring. All that “Get a job!” talk? Get outta here with that coastal elite Harvard MBA garbage. The noble American worker was screwed over by Kill and Killary Clinton and the rest of the globalist elites who invented NAFTA. We only meant that stuff about black people.

The blame for this cannot all rest at the feet of GOP politicians. At some undisclosed point between Rick Santelli’s CNBC rant and Trump’s famous escalator walk, the same GOP base that had enthusiastically dressed up in John Adams costumes decided to put on MAGA hats and start waxing lyrical about the plight of caricatures from Bruce Springsteen songs. This surprised a lot of people, not least the 16 other Republican candidates for president in 2016, nearly all of whom had convinced themselves that they were only one mangled Thomas Jefferson quote away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They knew that they didn’t believe their own BS. What had never occurred to them was that the voters didn’t either. It was never about reforming Social Security or originalism or entrepreneurship or whatever the hell The Federalist is; their politics were about one thing, a somewhat nebulous but implicitly defined “us” versus an equally amorphous but undeniably sinister “them.” It’s libs all the way the down, and they’re all there to be owned.