Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw has no problem embracing his newfound celebrity.
“They all know me […] I haven’t stopped taking selfies since I got here,” the former Navy SEAL told IJR during an appearance at Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit this week. “It’s pretty cool.”
In a sea of breakout Democratic stars emerging out of the 2018 midterms, including Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who already has 2020 buzz, and Rep-elect. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has risen as the face of the young progressive movement, all of whom received ample mainstream media attention, Crenshaw remains one of the sole Republicans to have grabbed national attention during this election year.
But as the 116th United States Congress nears, the Purple Heart recipient isn’t just soaking in all the attention, he hopes to use his new platform in the Republican Party “to be a messenger.”
“The answer is, you use your voice,” Crenshaw said. “You use your voice to promote the ideas and policies that we care about in a way that is inspirational and connects with, especially the next generation.”
While the incoming Texas representative will enter Congress in January with more political clout than your average freshman lawmaker, Crenshaw doesn’t want to use it in the same way he sees some of his Democratic colleagues harnessing their new “celebrity as leverage to get what [they] want.”
“Sometimes [Trump] says things that I disagree with.”
“I think that’s a bad way to go about it. I won’t name any names, but I think other members, a few members are doing that in a different party,” Crenshaw said. “I believe in teamwork. This is a team effort and I believe in working on it as a team. I believe in being part of that team. And also being humble. I think that’s a better way to. That’s more the American way. And that’s how I’ll pursue my goals in Congress with my colleagues.”
He recently made headlines again by using his voice to offer support to Saturday Night Lives’ Pete Davidson after he made a troubling Instragam post earlier this week. Crenshaw was catapulted to stardom following his initial response to Davidson’s ill-received SNL joke about his eyepatch, which the veteran wears after losing an eye fighting in Afghanistan. And since then, the pair have remained in touch.
“It seemed like a decent thing to do,” Crenshaw told IJR about the phone call he made to Davidson after seeing the alarming weekend social media post. “I felt like I did have a message that would resonate with him, as simple as it was. And the message was that he has a duty in this world and it’s his job to find it. And that same logic applies to myself.”
Crenshaw says Davidson was receptive to his message to keep fighting. “He was happy to hear from me. His phone was probably blowing up, I was surprised he answered, frankly. He did seem genuinely grateful to hear from me maybe just because I’m just a very different voice than what he’s used to hearing. Sometimes that helps.”
Among his freshman class is Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps Crenshaw’s Democratic equivalent in terms of meteoric rises over the course of 2018. But the future Texas lawmaker says “the similarities stop there.”
“I don’t think we are comparable. I think the only reason people are comparing us is because we both got famous very quickly,” he said regarding his future colleague. “She has an extremely different style. I mean, policy differences are 180, but the style is also 180 and I think that’s pretty obvious.”
Ocasio-Cortez exploded onto the national stage after trouncing Democratic leader Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a primary upset that sent shockwaves through Washington back in June. And the 28-year-old future lawmaker has only increased her political voice through innovative use of social media and continued efforts to buck the establishment, even in her own party.
Crenshaw, however, doesn’t seem all that impressed.
“She doesn’t really participate in a lot of the new members’ stuff with Democrats or Republicans,” he said when asked if he’s had any interactions with the future New York lawmaker.
Crenshaw also wasn’t a fan of when Ocasio-Cortez called this month’s Harvard orientation for freshman lawmakers a “lobbyist project” that promoted tax cuts for corporations.
“She wasn’t in hardly any of the classes at Harvard, which was the time for us to ask questions and get a feel for each other there. She wasn’t in any of those. I think I saw her in one class. Which is funny because she tweeted complaining about the Harvard classes, about how she thinks there are too many lobbyists,” Crenshaw, who graduated from Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said.
“Well, you weren’t even there! I thought that was really funny,” he added. “Not to mention, for a lot of reasons it was an interesting suggestion by her.”
While Crenshaw might not like to admit to similarities between himself and Ocasio-Cortez, they are there — especially when comes to the pairs’ tendency and ability to speak out for what they believe in, even if it’s bucking their own party.
Lately, Crenshaw, who is a supporter of President Donald Trump and says he “really [likes] his policy agenda and the hammer he takes to the job sometimes,” has spoken out against the president — something other Republicans have steered clear away from, perhaps out of fear of retribution from the Trump’s strident voter base.
“Sometimes he says things that I disagree with,” Crenshaw said.
Earlier this week, Crenshaw pushed back against Trump for suggesting that media coverage and programs like “Saturday Night Live” should be challenged in court.
“Yes, the media deliberately misleads and spins. It’s legal, and it needs to remain legal,” the soon-to-be Republican Congressman tweeted. “The 1st Amendment is the backbone of American exceptionalism.”
For Crenshaw, using his voice to push back on his own party’s president is more about making sure the American people see him and other representatives as “philosophically consistent.”
“The first amendment is a hard line for me. He said something like that and I’m like, ok, well, you may not be attacking the freedom of the press, but you are indicating that you might be willing to and that’s not ok. It’s that simple,” he said.
“But we should all stop overstating our support and our hatred. The biggest pitfall that the left falls into all the time is when they completely overstate their position. The sky is falling, the world is about to end, the apocalypse is now, it’s crazy.”
When Crenshaw is sworn in on January 3rd, he will be entering a hostile and, some would argue, broken environment that is currently on the verge of a government shutdown just days away from Christmas. But for a man who served ten years in the SEAL Teams, the challenge to help fix Washington is exactly what he’s been fighting for.
“This is nothing that I didn’t know I was getting myself into. One of the reasons I’m looking to be on the budget community is because I want to have a voice in how the budget process goes. And hopefully, fix some elements of that process that are broken. And be a voice for my generation’s concerns.”
“I believe in being part of that team but also being humble. I think that’s a better way to be. That’s more the American way. And that’s how I’ll pursue my goals in Congress with my colleagues.”