Amash responded with a poke at Trump’s populist image: “It didn't take long for the swamp to drain @realDonaldTrump. No shame, Mr. President. Almost everyone succumbs to the D.C. Establishment.”
A couple of days later, Trump aide Dan Scavino decided to take it up a notch. He denounced Amash as “a big liability” and, in the name of the #TrumpTrain, called for the libertarian congressman to be primaried.
To which Amash gamely fired back: “Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.”
As burns go, “Trumpstablishment” isn’t especially scathing. (Trump slung vastly more toxic, personal, and degrading mud at every step of his path to the White House.) It is, however, a tidy bit of political jujitsu by Amash, as he and his Freedom Caucus brethren find themselves targeted by a President who rose to power via a turbo-charged brand of populist rage.
For the most part, Trump’s populist demagoguery is a powerful weapon. Red, blue, or purple stater: Everyone loves to hate Washington and “the political elite.” But when it comes to trashing the establishment and proclaiming devotion to “real Americans,” the Freedom Caucus takes a back seat to no one—especially not some born-to-money, schmancy-pants New York real estate mogul.
After all, caucus members such as Amash, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Thomas Massie, and Mark Sanford came to Congress on an anti-Obama, Tea Party-fueled, damn-the-establishment tide of fury and frustration when Trump was still firing people on The Apprentice. Love them or hate them, these guys have been tormenting the powers that be ever since.
So if the president wants to pick a fight with Freedom Caucusers, its members are well-positioned, and willing, to hit back, painting Trump as the one betraying the conservative, anti-establishment cause. Which is, in fact, what a handful have begun doing, some more gently than others.
Amash’s beef with Trumpland has caused the most buzz. At an event hosted by Politico Thursday, he appeared alongside the Freedom Caucus’s current (Mark Meadows) and former (Jim Jordan) chairmen for a group interview. Seated center stage, the boyish Amish fielded multiple questions about tensions with the White House. Asked about Scavino’s call for him to be primaried, he shrugged it off.
“I’m not worried about it. My constituents know what I stand for.” Indeed, he pointed out, “every election somebody makes these kinds of threats.” Moderator Jake Sherman helpfully reminded the audience that, in 2014, the Chamber of Commerce labored to unseat Amash. “It didn’t work,” the congressman noted cheerily.
No, it did not. And Amash is more than happy now to have Trump lumped in with monied, Chamber of Commerce establishment types. The Chamber of Commerce wants Amash gone. Trump wants Amash gone. You do the math.