Back in 1994, Americans pushed back against Hillary Clinton’s “Hillarycare” health plan. The result was so disastrous for Democrats that many who survived formed the Blue Dog Coalition. They were self-described conservative Democrats, and made it possible for Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” to succeed. In many ways, they saved Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Then Bush came in, and the Democrats continued their move to the far-left, pushed by the Iraq War, which then-Sen. Clinton supported (before she didn’t). The Blue Dogs were left behind, and many joined the Republican Party rather than lose. Examples abound. Sitting Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal was one of the original Blue Dogs. Louisiana Reps. Billy Tauzin and Jimmy Hayes also became Republicans.
By 2010, the ride was over. The Party of Obama would no longer tolerate anyone remotely conservative, God-fearing, or outwardly supporting “things Republicans do.” Blue Dogs were mercilessly primaried, and the DCCC withheld support for any holdouts.
This is what we’re now seeing happening with the conservative House Freedom Caucus. The group that forced Speaker John Boehner out in 2015 is finding itself out in the cold. This is why Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s loss in Kansas is a big deal. The GOP is now the Party of Trump, who has taken over the Tea Party’s angry voters. And Trump is not a conservative.
Fellow Freedom Caucus Reps. Palmer, Amash, Jordan, Hice, Loudermilk, Gosar and others provided direct financial assistance to Huelskamp, while Reps. Jim Bridenstine, Steve King and Jim Jordan spent time campaigning for him, according to the Washington Examiner.
Now we find Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais on the chopping block. Of all things, he’s being attacked on hypocrisy over his pro-life stance (because it’s okay if Trump says Planned Parenthood does “good things” but nobody else can be contradictory).
Former Mitt Romney aide Grant Starrett, a 28-year-old Murfreesboro lawyer, is trying to run to DesJarlais’ right. That’s not an easy thing to do against a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Starrett’s campaign is painting him as the “faithful conservative” in the race. He’s recorded a five-minute video in which he describes how he become a Christian and he’s tweeted photos of his bedside table to show off his Bible and his Glock.
Starrett, a Stanford and Vanderbilt law graduate, has pledged to make his primary campaign against DesJarlais about “policy differences” not “personal issues.”
A Bible and a Glock, because I shoot you in the name of Jesus. While Cheeto Jesus hasn’t gotten himself involved in this race, those kinds of images are right up his fairway.
The orange-hued hustler did, however, shout out to Speaker Paul Ryan’s challenger in Wisconsin, Paul Nehlen.
From Trump’s interview with The Washington Post:
TRUMP: You want me to give you an exact quote on the Paul Ryan? You were asking.
RUCKER: Yeah, please do.
TRUMP: Okay, you’re asking me if I’m supporting Paul Ryan?
RUCKER: Yeah, if you’re supporting Paul Ryan.
TRUMP: I’m not quite there yet.
RUCKER: And why is that?
TRUMP: Just not quite there yet.
RUCKER: Has he asked for your support?
TRUMP: Everybody wants my support. You know why? Cause I had more than 14 million people that voted for me. And nobody gives us credit. There were 17 people in the race. I got more votes than anybody in the history of Republican politics. By millions. Don’t forget. How about if I had two people in the race? The number would’ve been twice as good. In other words, people with 2 million people. Because the Republican party increased. [Trump looks at the TV.] That statement’s gotten a lot of play. I love that statement we wrote. So I’m just not quite there yet.
RUCKER: So you’re doing what Paul Ryan did to you, which is not endorse right away but sort of think about it for some time?
TRUMP: I like Paul. I like Paul. But these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there. I’m not quite there yet.
In political technical jargon, this kind of play is called “stabbing in the back,” and a person who does it is called a “back stabber,” or alternatively an “S.O.B.” But Trump’s message is clear. The House Freedom Caucus, and anyone associated with them, is persona non grata. (The Senate has its own particular problems: see Kelly Ayotte and John McCain.)
Besides Huelskamp and DesJarlais, most of the remaining Freedom Caucus member seats seem to be in better shape for 2016. But in 2018 and beyond, if the Trumpification of the GOP continues, look for some culling as the new GOPe takes control.
This is why it’s so important to wrest the party away from Cheeto Jesus. Just as conservatives began to have a real impact on legislation, we will face four years of drought as the leftist Democrats double down or Trump crushes opposition. Either Freedom Caucus candidates will hold the line against them, or it’s time for a new option for conservatives if they go the way of the Blue Dogs.