Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw did something rare in Republican politics over the weekend: He used actual facts to rebut a commonly held misconception.
Speaking at an event for the Texas Liberty Alliance PAC on Sunday, Crenshaw lit into what are often believed to be the most conservative – and most Trump-loving – members of the GOP conference.
“There’s two types of Members of Congress: There’s performance artists and legislators. The performance artists are the ones that get all the attention, the ones you think are more conservative because they know how to say slogans real well, they know how to recite the lines that they know our voters want to hear.”
He then goes on to cite data suggesting that Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, was actually one of the most loyal supporters of the then-President’s agenda in 2017 and 2018, during the 115th Congress when Republicans held both the House and Senate majorities.
Then Crenshaw drops the hammer, noting that the House Freedom Caucus members were some of the least loyal to Trump’s agenda. “All of them,” Crenshaw insisted.
“What you hear so often is not true,” Crenshaw warned the audience. “We have grifters in our midst… in the conservative movement. Lie after lie after lie.”
So, is Crenshaw right?
FiveThirtyEight kept tabs on votes in support of Trump’s agenda and positions for all four years of his presidency. Which makes it relatively easy to fact-check Crenshaw’s claims.
In the 115th Congress, Kinzinger, that scourge of all Trumpists, voted in line with the Trump position 99% of the time. That put him in a tie for the 2nd most Trump-y voting record in the House over those two years.
And some of the least supportive members of the Trump agenda over that same time were, in fact, members of the Freedom Caucus. There was Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, who backed the Trump position just 72.9% of the time. And fellow Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who was with Trump only 77.8% of the time. And Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert (80.4%). And Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (81.1%). And Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (83.7%). And South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman (83.9%). And even Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan (85.1%).
(For his part, Crenshaw wasn’t in the 115th Congress under GOP control. When he got elected and served in the back half of the Trump presidency in the House GOP minority, he voted with Trump 90.8% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.)
There’s more – lots more – but you get the idea. Crenshaw, in the main, is absolutely right that Kinzinger was one of the strongest supporters of Trump’s agenda over his first two years in the White House and prominent members of the House Freedom Caucus were among the then-President’s least steady backers.
Neither Crenshaw’s office nor that of Biggs, the current Freedom Caucus chair, immediately responded to a request for comment.
What gives? My educated guess is that Trumpism isn’t really about a set of conservative policy positions. It’s about an attitude (confrontational) and a worldview (conspiratorial).
Does Trump even know the facts Crenshaw was telling the crowd on Sunday? Probably not. And it’s not immediately clear to me he would care. Trump likes performers and the House Freedom Caucus – from Gaetz to Gohmert to Jordan – is full of them. They are the faces of the modern Trump Republican Party – even though their voting records suggest they have been something short of fully supportive of the former President.