If you want to see the beating heart of a party, a good place to look is the early primary contenders for an election over a year away. That’s when the true believers come out to grab hold of the base, often by saying that mainstream figures aren’t living up to their party’s values.

Some of those Republican upstarts are already starting their runs, and young or old, man or woman, novice or professional officeholder, there’s a remarkable sameness to them.

For instance, here’s newly minted primary candidate Jake Bequette of Arkansas, who’s challenging John Boozman, a mainstream and relatively low-profile Republican senator. Bequette had a brief NFL career and served in the Army, which along with an extremely square jaw apparently serve as qualifications to be a senator:

“Democrats have been taken over by radical socialists,” he says. “And too many Republicans just go along to get along.”

But to really get the distilled essence of contemporary conservatism, check out this announcement video from a Senate candidate in Alabama, where Sen. Richard C. Shelby is retiring. So far the best-known candidate is Rep. Mo Brooks, the Trump superfan best known for the incendiary speech he gave on Jan. 6. Brooks has nothing on Jessica Taylor, who seems to have been stitched together from a series of Newsmax rants and right-wing chain letters your uncle sent you:

“I’m Jessica Taylor,” she says. “Send me to Washington and I’ll be Kamala’s worst nightmare,” intentionally mispronouncing Vice President Harris’s name to show the limitlessness of her contempt.

These videos show the common themes insurgent Republicans are adopting, which come down to:

  1. The left wants to destroy America
  2. I’ll take on those Washington insiders
  3. I won’t apologize to, well, whoever wants me to apologize
  4. My priorities are God, guns, abortion, God, Trump, and God

“The most important relationship to me is my relationship with God,” says Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska and has already been endorsed by the state’s Republican Party and by Trump. “I won’t back down when critics attack me for it.”

And Jim Carlin in Iowa appears to be running mostly to prevent the government from keeping you from attending church (you may not have realized that was a problem). One candidate after another says “the establishment” is terrified of them because they’re so strong and independent.

But most of them do have a brief policy-esque section in the middle of their videos where they rattle off a few positions — and they’re almost all the same.

“I'll protect life, defend the Second Amendment, support our police and military, finish building President Trump’s wall, and I’ll never bend the knee to communist China. And I still won’t apologize for it,” says Taylor.

And Bequette? “I’m a God-fearing Christian conservative who is 100 percent pro-life and pro-police. And I will never apologize for being against illegal immigration. Like you, I’m sick and tired of the media lying, China getting away with murder, and politicians who only stand up for President Trump when they stand to benefit.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina, running for an open Senate seat, says he is “so fed up with the liberals’ attacks on our faith, our families, and our way of life that I ran for Congress to stand and fight alongside Donald Trump to drain the swamp and take our country back.”

But none of these outsiders seems particularly worked up about Joe Biden — who is, you might recall, the president. He’s almost a bystander in the current Republican narrative about how America is about to be utterly destroyed. It’s not just that they’ve found Biden is reasonably likable, or at least difficult to hate. The reason he isn’t their main focus is that the culture war is always what Republicans are concerned about, and as an older white man Biden just can’t be a symbol of frightening change in the way former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were.

If you recall the atmosphere the last time we had a Democratic president, this might sound familiar. But there’s a big difference: Back in 2009 and 2010, old-school Republican politicians like House GOP leaders John A. Boehner and Eric Cantor were caught off-guard by the venom bubbling up from their party’s base. Their efforts to feed that base what it wanted were insincere, and the base knew it. Some key GOP politicians lost primaries to hard-right upstarts running against “the establishment.”

But that probably won’t happen in too many cases next year. With just a couple of exceptions, the Republican establishment has moved so far to the right, and is so eager to embrace whatever pernicious lie comes out of Trump’s mouth, that there just isn’t much room to their right.

Republican voters probably aren’t worried that their representatives aren’t shaking their fists at the left enough, because they see them every night on Fox News doing just that. In a party where everything is a performance of outrage and just about every politician is enacting that performance, candidates like these just don’t stand out, except as curiosities.