Lone Star stand

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Texas finds itself back at the center of politics and elections, with debates over everything from its chances of going blue this November to the impact of its status as an in-migration destination from places such as California. The Washington Examiner Magazine spoke with rising Republican star Rep. Dan Crenshaw about the election and about his state’s, and his party’s, future. This has been condensed for clarity.

WASHINGTON EXAMINER MAGAZINE: I notice you have an interest in confronting antifa and its supporters amid the riots. Can you explain why?

REP. DAN CRENSHAW: I probably fight more battles than most politicians. Certainly not more than the president does, but I think it’s our job, just in general — forget about antifa for a second — just generally speaking, as representatives of people to fight on multiple fronts, so not just on policy, but on the cultural front, which is where antifa really comes in. … These people stand for something that is so antithetical to American culture and Americanism and American values that it is the job of a representative who represents people … and American values in general to speak out against that. Especially something as deeply evil as antifa.

I don’t think there’s Republicans that would tiptoe around the question of antifa. I’ve leveraged social media and the many platforms of communications differently than most of my colleagues. That’s probably why you hear from me more, which is the goal, and I’d encourage everyone to do it. They just might not create an entire produced video about it like we tend to do on Instagram.

WEX: You have really grown even more than last year in terms of social media presence. Do you spearhead that yourself?

CRENSHAW: I’m 36, so I grew up with Facebook. I understand how to digest it and what appeals to me and what doesn’t. You can watch our social media change over time. It started out on the campaign, where I would start with Facebook Live and free flow about a specific policy issue, which, in hindsight, probably went on too long. We learned to do quicker videos, quicker and hard-hitting, which I figured out over time.

WEX: Are you ever tempted to give the more experienced politicians advice?

CRENSHAW: They’ll ask and I’ll tell them, “Look, just copy it. Just copy what I do.” People overthink it. You’ve got to experiment. Continue to push the envelope. The team has grown over the years to where now, we can just produce these things very rapidly. There’s a system in place. It’s just so important to do. We can reach so many more people on social media than we can on the most popular talk show.

WEX: Speaking of which, your “Texas Reloaded” ad campaign for Texas races — are you concerned about your race or any of these others in terms of flipping Texas purple or even blue?

CRENSHAW: Well, it won’t flip, but it’s obviously too close for comfort. I’m also optimistic about Texas. It’s still a center-right state. That doesn’t mean everyone votes Republican even though they’re center-right. One of the reasons we created TexasReloaded.com was to showcase these different candidates … how young, diverse, and cool they are. It’s recreating or reimagining an image for the Republican Party.

WEX: I noticed in one of the clips you’re jumping out of an airplane. Do you ever get tired of centering your military service? Do you ever feel like that’s misrepresented, or do you enjoy still combining that part of your life with being in Congress?

CRENSHAW: I don’t think I do it very often, frankly. I almost never mention it. I never bring up the military or the SEAL teams in respect to policy or the culture wars. I don’t feel I need to. It’s kind of wrapped into this video obviously because what other kind of person jumps out of a plane besides someone in special operations? But it’s not explicit.

WEX: I noticed recently on Twitter, your opponent (Sima Ladjevardian, a lawyer) attacked your opinion on healthcare. What is your take on her and your race?

CRENSHAW: Yeah, I saw that. She believes the world revolves around Twitter. This is her entire strategy. She’s one of the wealthiest people in Houston. She’s got a big mansion. She tweets behind 8-foot walls. Not always accurately and never in a collegial way. She’s really trolling. So, you never get a feel for what her platform is or anything about her. It’s just not her strategy for whatever reason. I’ll be honest. I think she went on a tirade of 20-something tweets. I read the first one. I didn’t read the subsequent ones. As usual, there were misrepresentations and outright lies. In general, Democrats are going to try to convince people Republicans are always trying to take away protections for preexisting conditions. People are afraid of this. So Democrats play on that fear. It’s an outright lie. Being against the system Obamacare set up doesn’t mean you’re against every single thing. It wasn’t clear about protections for preexisting conditions. Even if Obamacare was fully repealed, we’ve made it very clear Republicans are in favor of protecting preexisting conditions. There’s just no substance coming from my opponent. Any kind of fundraising or support that she tries to collect is based on my own national profile.

WEX: You don’t sound too concerned. In terms of broadening the conversation, since many view you as a front-runner in the race for future ideological leader of the party: If President Trump wins, where do you see the Republican Party and ideological conservatism going from here?

CRENSHAW: There’s multiple narratives out there. One narrative is that it’s changed drastically because of Trump. I don’t really agree with that. Perhaps around some marginal policy issues. The Republican Party might be skeptical of trade. More skeptical of foreign interventions. That happened naturally. Trump didn’t create that. These are nuanced shifts or situation-dependent policy shifts. So, what Trump brings … is sort of a combining of Congress-style Republicans with labor and the middle class. I think that’s a healthy coalition. It should be all about job growth and wage growth, but in a free-market way. An economy that continues to grow and is strong and works for people who are working for it. This isn’t a bad message. Democrats used to play that message, but they gave up a long time ago. They’ve moved to a much more radical message, more about culture wars. You see this play out in the academic side of conservative politics, say, with Oren Cass. I wouldn’t call it anti-libertarian, but you’ve got more libertarians on one side and industrial policy types on the other. These are healthy conversations to have, so I think that’s the general direction.

WEX: Do you think that is portrayed accurately in the media to the average voter?

CRENSHAW: I wouldn’t say the media portrays much of anything accurately or fairly when it comes to Trump. So this election, the question is more about coronavirus and who is going to rebuild the economy afterwards. Voters are split on that. Voters trust Trump more on the economy and Biden more on coronavirus. That’s wrong, I think. I think Trump could make a much better argument than he does make and this campaign could make a much better argument for doing the best possible action, the response for the pandemic.

WEX: Did you feel like there was anything he could have done differently?

CRENSHAW: It’s easy to say in hindsight we should have shut our borders completely for a month and suffered that as opposed to anything else. Hindsight is easy. The question is more, knowing what he knew at the time, what could he have done something differently? On that front, it’s much harder to criticize. Democrats can’t do this either. They never say, “On March 10, we all said you should do this, and you didn’t do it.” That criticism is never levied because they don’t have it. In fact, the only time they say something is the travel ban, but they didn’t have a travel ban. That’s the only time we know where they would have gone left when we should have gone right. It’s hard to find an example of when the administration really screwed it up. It’s just not true. The reality is, when it comes to the pandemic, there isn’t some solution, some silver-bullet solution. Democrats don’t want to believe there are trade-offs. Republicans understood there are costs and benefits to every policy and a sense of balance must be undertaken.

WEX: What about Texas and the way it’s being handled here?

CRENSHAW: Policywise or rhetorically speaking? Policywise, Texas has handled it the best they can. We’re talking about a targeted lockdown after the spike. Locking down bars really hurt the bar industry. I’d like to see more aid for these bars if we’re going to lock them down at the state level using PPP funding. Republicans keep trying to implement legislation that would allow us to spend the money that’s still there. For the most part, the economy keeps humming. We’re under 7% unemployment, as opposed to 12% in California, which makes a big difference. Those percentages, these matter quite a bit to people’s lives. California had the same trends we did [and ended up with] enormous costs but no extra benefits. They made a foolish calculation. This is what Democrat governance means.

WEX: What do you expect from the Right if Joe Biden wins? Is that an opportunity to revive conservatism?

CRENSHAW: I don’t see huge changes to the platform. The question is always what part of these platforms is what makes it to the top of the list? You can imagine a similar era to when Obama is elected. Democrats would overstep massively. I mean, massively. Even if they keep half their promises, they will overstep massively. People will finally have to live with the actual policies that Democrats stand for. People have not had to live with what’s been passed out of the House of Representatives. They don’t know about it. They don’t know how dangerous it is and how it will affect their lives. All of a sudden, they will. If Biden wins, they will take the Senate: I think these things are linked. So, you can imagine a very radical two years, and people will have to pay attention. Republicans need to be there to pay attention and to show people how radical they are and what the alternative is. I think it will be compelling to voters. But I don’t want voters to have to go through that or live through these policies. This will be very damaging.

Nicole Russell (@russell_nm) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog.

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