Under this head and subhead, the capital L libertarians at Reason feature a piece by Texas writer Robert Draper.
Having Co-Opted the Tea Party Nationwide, Trump Tries to Stamp Out Its Remnant in Congress
The ultimate outsider candidate collaborates with the GOP establishment to marginalize the House Freedom Caucus and pivot towards centrist Democrats
Now, there are plenty of contrary takes (see Conn Carroll, Justin Amash, and Reihan Salam, for starters). But the betting money is that both the Trump administration and the GOP establishment it now sits atop will seek actively to marginalize the rebels and instead find common governing cause with centrist Democrats, particularly in the United States Senate. If true, this scenario would produce one of the greatest cognitive dissonances in modern political history, while setting the administration up for even more humiliation during its honeymoon phase. Trump the above-the-fray outsider is collaborating with dealmaking career insiders to sideline one of the only principled Beltway blocs, even before showing any ability to woo Democrats over to Trump’s anti-conservative agenda. It’s all shaping up to be a godawful mess.
In a terrific New York Times Magazine article over the weekend, Robert Draper captured the quick devolution of Planet Trump’s attitudes toward the House Freedom Caucus, and by extrapolation its Senate allies such as Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz.
Robert Draper grew up near our old neighborhood on the far west side of Houston back when it was as much woods, pastures, ranch and rice land as subdivisions. He was seven years younger than me and attended Westchester High School four grades behind Shannon. He was a good student, graduated from UT-Austin while writing for the Daily Texan and made a name for himself producing some outstanding work at Texas Monthly in the 1980s and 1990s. As a kid, Robert’s claim to fame was being the grandson of legal and Nuremberg legend, Leon Jaworski. Draper made his own fame as an ink-stained wretch and writes here in New York Times Magazine:
But in the end, what Trump needs from the majority leader is not gossip but votes — 216 of them, to be exact, in the House. And McCarthy’s recent track record in obtaining majorities has not been the greatest. In his previous capacity as House whip, he was thwarted by members of his own party when it came to subjects as diverse as reauthorizing a Patriot Act they deemed too intrusive, a farm bill they considered too expensive and a border-security bill they regarded as too lenient. His most reliable obstacles have been the three dozen or so House conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus, a two-year-old group of fiscal hard-liners. Early this year, McCarthy predicted to me that the new president would quickly subjugate the Freedom Caucus. “Trump is strong in their districts,” McCarthy told me. “There’s not a place for them to survive in this world.”
When we spoke on the morning of March 7, Trump assured me that he would not bully the Obamacare-replacement bill’s loudest Republican critics, like the Freedom Caucus chairman, Representative Mark Meadows, on Twitter: “No, I don’t think I’ll have to,” he said. “Mark Meadows is a great guy and a friend of mine. I don’t think he’d ever disappoint me, or the party. I think he’s great. No, I would never call him out on Twitter. Some of the others, too. I don’t think we’ll need to. Now, they’re fighting for their turf, but I don’t think they’re going to be obstructionists. I spoke to Mark. He’s got some ideas. I think they’re very positive.”
But on March 21, in a meeting with the Freedom Caucus about the bill, Trump called out Meadows by name, saying, “I’m going to come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes.’ ” Meadows remained a “no” on the bill, and among conservatives, he was far from alone. One of the Freedom Caucus’s most outspoken members, Representative Raúl Labrador of Idaho, believes that the Trump White House was led astray by Ryan’s confidence that he knew what conservatives wanted when drafting the bill. “The legislation has to go through the body, not the top,” Labrador told me. “And if our leadership thinks now that we’re a unified body, that they can do things while ignoring us, that’s not going to happen.”
Matt Welch back at Reason:
And how had the Paul/Massie/Lee/Cruz/Justin Amash class, and the movement they sprang out of, earned that crazy rep in the first place? By tackling head-on the sellout policies and corrupted personnel decisions of the GOP establishment. They were draining the swamp even before Donald Trump was getting into the birth-certificate forensics business. When I interviewed Massie and Amash in January 2016, just before their preferred candidate Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race, both acknowledged that Trump was more successfully attracting voters who were disappointed that too many Tea Party picks had gone native in Washington. “They have sent some people here to Congress who said all the right things, they ran as Tea Party candidates, then they got up here and they voted for the omnibus bill, or voting for Speaker Boehner on their first day after pledging they wouldn’t vote for him,” Massie said. “And so what they’re looking for is somebody’s that’s not going to be controlled when they get here.”
Trump may still be beyond the control of mere mortals, but ever since bending the party apparatus to his will in July 2016, along the way discovering that the “principles” of such fiscal conservatives as Mike Pence are about as malleable as tin foil, he has created a paradox that borders on the delicious: The very establishment he once railed against for being power-hungry sellouts have now sold themselves out to Donald Trump in order to retain power. And now both sides have joined up in trying to stamp out the last remaining principled deviants, who show little outward sign of giving a rip. If you plan on well and truly killing the Tea Party, it turns out, you’re gonna need a bigger stake.
Read the whole thing times two.