“It just doesn’t make sense,” conservative commentators tell themselves amid a dissection of the average Donald Trump supporter. How does backing the GOP candidate who supports higher taxes, Planned Parenthood funding, and tariffs, the candidate who has touted his ability to purchase the loyalty of politicians and favors from the government, who has expressed his affinity for single payer health care; how does any of this communicate to Republican leaders that they’re not conservative enough? Trump backers will contend that these observers just don’t get it. They claim that the forces Trump has unleashed are infinitely complex and beyond the comprehension of the average pundit. If only that were true. Besieged and consumed by repeated failures, the conservative revolution has begun to eat its own. It is a movement that now sees the greater and more subversive threat residing within its own ranks. But the conservative wing is no longer united in this sentiment. A counterrevolution may be underway in the House.

“House conservatives are tired of losing fights with leadership,” National Review’s Joel Gehrke wrote in January. “Now, they’re doing something about it.” These conservatives’ vehicle for reasserting control over the congressional GOP was the formation of the House Freedom Caucus. The invitation-only group of lawmakers, founded by nine House Republicans and chaired by Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, was designed to set a conservative agenda for the House majority. In principle, its aim was to compel Republican congressional leadership to embrace a more robust right-leaning approach to governance. From the start, however, the organization was conspicuously secretive.

“It’s like ‘Fight Club,’” Oklahoma Republican and HFC member Jim Bridenstine told reporters in July. In other words, you don’t talk about HFC. “Except that’s not exactly true,” Roll Call’s Matt Fuller wrote. “One member, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified rules, says the caucus believes keeping GOP leaders in the dark could be an advantage as it stakes out its next moves.”

Almost from the start, the organization appeared to view the go-along-get-along GOP leadership in Congress to be a greater threat to the conservative agenda than the Democratic minority. In some cases, they were correct. The only public stands the HFC had taken by the summer was to oppose the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, affirming the tax-exempt status of churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages, and opposing a Washington D.C. abortion law. On those issues, Republican leadership in both chambers of Congress had shown themselves to be embarrassingly weak-kneed.

Perhaps understandably, Speaker Boehner immediately set about discrediting the group that was formed with the express mission of undermining his authority. In a joint press conference alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Boehner dismissed conservative frustration with congressional Republicans as having been generated only by groups “who have raised money and just beating the dickens out of me.”

“They raise money, put it in their pocket, and pay themselves big salaries,” he added. That’s a serious charge, but it’s not entirely true. Conservatives have plenty of valid reasons for being frustrated with the congressional GOP. But the means by which frustrated conservatives have chosen to vent that irritation has meant aligning overtly or tacitly with progressives. That is the case for Trump supporters who have found common cause with a candidate who was a doctrinaire Democrat not all that long ago, and it is the case for House Republicans who have found kinship with the enemy of their enemy. On Wednesday, a prominent member of the House Freedom Caucus said as much when he resigned in disgust.

In his letter of resignation from the HFC, California Republican Representative Tom McClintock outlined the many instances in which the most conservative members of the GOP conference joined with their Democratic colleagues to thwart the will of the majority.

He noted that HFC conservatives joined with Democrats in February to defeat an effort to pass a short-term bill to avoid a government shutdown when conservatives tried to rob the Department of Homeland Security of funding to implement Barack Obama’s immigration orders. With the aid of conservative House members, Democrats got their way – DHS was fully funded.

A similar situation occurred in May when the House considered extending trade promotional authority to the president. “At the behest of its board, most HFC members combined with the vast majority of House Democrats in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat this legislation,” McClintock wrote.

And again this month, McClintock contended, the HFC members hoped to thwart the approval of the Iran nuclear deal by forcing leadership to delay a vote over a resolution formally disapproving of the deal. “Once again, the House Freedom Caucus leadership threatened to combine with House Democrats to defeat the Resolution, forcing the House leadership to abandon it in favor of a symbolic and legally meaningless vote,” McClintock added. “Ironically, while Harry Reid and Senate Democrats blocked a vote on the Resolution of Disapproval in the Senate, the House Freedom Caucus leadership was instrumental in blocking its consideration in the House.”

Finally, the disaffected HFC member contended that his former colleagues in that caucus are hurtling headlong toward another shutdown fight at the end of the month – this time, over Planned Parenthood’s funding. He contended that a shutdown, as opposed to a shutdown fight, would alienate the public and poison them against the cause of stripping the abortion provider of taxpayer funding. With a parting slight in which he accused his conservative friends of becoming “Nancy Pelosi’s tactical ally,” McClintock resigned.

Perhaps John Boehner is merely reinforcing his command over his Republicans but, for an unruly conference like the House GOP, that is in itself a remarkable development. And McClintock has a point insofar as the HFC’s efforts to thwart the current leadership’s designs often align with the interests of the much more disciplined Democratic opposition. But the lesson of the summer has been that a substantial plurality of the Republican voting base reserves their antipathy not for Democrats but those Republicans deemed insufficiently committed to the cause. McClintock’s message, and Boehner’s message, is that House conservatives have their hearts in the right place, but their strategy is flawed, self-defeating, and renders them de facto Democratic allies. That’s all true. The question then becomes will conservatives care?

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