Mother Jones

ALL THE RAGE

Dan Crenshaw declared war on cancel culture. But who’s really getting canceled?

DAN CRENSHAW started off as a joke. On the last episode of Saturday Night Live before the 2018 election, Pete Davidson was rifling through headshots of candidates when he got to the 35-year-old retired Navy SEAL from the Houston area. “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie,” he said, as a photo of the Republican—short wavy brown hair, trim beard, eye patch—flashed across the screen. Davidson started to laugh. “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever.”

The reaction was as instantaneous as it was predictable: Angry tweets. An angrier press release. An apologetic phone call from Lorne Michaels. But as Republicans called for Davidson’s head, the butt of the joke appealed for peace. The next day, Crenshaw filmed a video in his car.

“I want us to get away from this culture where we demand apologies every time someone misspeaks,” he said. “I think that would be very healthy for our nation to go in that direction. We don’t need to be outwardly outraged. I don’t need to demand apologies from them.” The real tragedy, he added, was that the joke wasn’t funny.

A week later, Crenshaw—now a representative-elect—was live from New York to accept the apology he insisted he didn’t want. (“Maybe the most uplifting moment in American politics I’d seen in a decade,” gushed the conservative pundit Ben Shapiro.) A few days later, Crenshaw wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post calling for civility in politics. As Republicans limped into the new year, Crenshaw entered Congress as the face of a cultural counterrevolution, a beacon in a fog of toxicity.

A year into his Washington career, Crenshaw has emerged as the breakout star of the Republican Party’s Class of 2018. He’s one of the most sought-after fundraisers and speakers in town, and activists are already buzzing about a presidential run. Crenshaw has the kind of platform it takes many politicians years to build, in part because at first glance he’s the type of conservative who seems to have gone extinct during the Trump years—young and quick-witted, with a record of personal heroism and an earnestness about following

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