The Silence is Deafening, Mr. Brat
This past Sunday, the Freedom Caucus allowed Virginia Congressman Dave Brat (VA-07) to represent them on Meet the Press. Brat’s performance was widely panned, but there was an editorial from Virginia political writer and prognosticator Jeff Schapiro that provided desperately needed criticism.
“Brat, one of 40 Republicans who make up the Freedom Caucus that undercut Speaker John Boehner and his would-be successor, Kevin McCarthy, was paired on the chat show with Pennsylvania’s Charlie Dent, among the few centrist Republicans left (pun unintended) in the House.
Theirs was not a conversation between peers. It was a hissing match between a realist and a rhetorician.
Brat defeated Cantor by harnessing tea partyers and libertarians. For them, the primary came down to ABC — anybody but Cantor.
Though Brat behaves like they are, they are not Brat’s only constituents. The 7th District is Republican and conservative, rural and suburban. It is home to highly educated professionals and hard-knocks proletariat.
It is not a district that demands much from Washington. It expects its representative to be constructive, not obstructive. For Cantor, this required constantly juggling many balls. Brat is bobbling just one.”
And in case anyone was wondering, Representative Brat’s claims that Representative Dent wished to kick out members of the House Freedom Caucus were blatantly false. You can find the full interview here.
I could not agree more with Mr. Schapiro’s assessment. Mr. Brat seems to represent only the far right fringe in his district (and for that matter around the country), but has consistently neglected to represent the other 85% of his constituents. Yes, I am fully aware that he received more than 15% of the vote in the 2014 primary, but it would be ignorant to suggest that his entire constituency is waving Gadsden flags. Trust me, there are plenty of common sense Republicans in Virginia’s 7th District who despise the tactics employed by Congressman Brat in the U.S. House.
Mr. Brat’s ideological inconsistencies are obvious. His frequently repeated concern about our future “financial default in 11 years,” resulting from entitlement spending is fair, but is he not concerned about the financial crisis that would occur if we default on the debt next month? If he is so concerned about this impending “financial crisis,” then why doesn’t he find ways to work with fellow Republicans and Democrats to address entitlements – something that most elected officials on both sides of the aisle recognize is necessary?
Probably because that’s not as easy as getting on Meet the Press and yelling at the House Leadership. It requires someone to be a leader, not just a rhetorician. If we measure success by Meet the Press appearances, Eric Cantor should still be in the House – he’s appeared dozens of times.
No one laid out the argument against Congressman Brat’s pandering attacks on House Leadership better than Jonathan Capehart at Washington Post:
The Speaker of the House is not just the leader of the Republican conference in the chamber. That person, along with the Senate Majority Leader, must guide the legislative branch in its vital duty as a co-equal branch of government with the executive. But thanks to the presidential succession act, the role of Speaker of the House is even more important. The 1947 statute stipulates that if neither the President nor the Vice President is able to fulfill the duties of the chief executive then the speaker of the House would lead the nation.
Contrary to Brat’s assertion, this means that whoever the next speaker is should be someone who understands that his or her responsibilities to the caucus or constituents may necessarily have to give way to the demands and compromises required to govern an enterprise as important as the United States. That person must be a leader and be seen as a leader. More importantly, folks have to see that person as a potential President.
Hugh Hewitt asked the second best question of the interview on MTP. Mr. Hewitt laid out a litany of problems in the world. “The world is on fire,” proclaimed Mr. Hewitt, and he asked Congressman Brat for a solution. Can Congressman Brat support a consensus candidate like Paul Ryan? Brat dodged the question by laying out principles that he demands the new Speaker to uphold. When it came time to answer the question, silence.
The silence is deafening, Mr. Brat.
When Mr. Brat lists the principles he would like the new House Speaker to have, these principles read like a ransomer’s list of demands, and Mr. Hewitt was right to call them such. Government-by-hostage-taking seems to be Mr. Brat’s recipe for success.
The problem is that it rarely works.
This leads me to another question from Meet the Press, this time asked by Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post. Mr. Robinson brings up the point that the United States House of Representatives doesn’t set the national agenda. So, why isn’t Dave Brat working to elect a Republican President instead of ramming his head into a wall? And, as before, Brat had no straight answer, instead choosing to dodge the question.
There is no way that 54 Republican votes in the United States Senate will turn in to 60 votes overnight. Under no circumstances, even if Dave Brat were magically made Senate Majority Leader, could that happen. Knowing that’s the case, why continue on this path? The same can be said of the Presidential veto – short of a veto proof majority on both houses of Congress, which does not exist, much of what Brat wants is completely out of his power.
His solution? Complaining.
My point is simple: Mr. Brat spends much of his time complaining about the constitutional system of government he claims to love so much. He shouts from the rooftops demanding others abide by the Constitution, yet complains loudly and publicly when powers properly conferred by the Constitution are used to block his agenda. He is quick to judge, call others names, and extol his own merits in a carnival barker’s voice, all while accomplishing nothing.
Shucks, sounds like the guy who lives at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, don’t it?
Now the past few paragraphs I have just written will go unnoticed by Brat supporters. In one ear and out the other. I will be pronounced a Communist who sympathizes with the enemy (never mind the little fact Brat himself has voted with Nancy Pelosi on TPP and DHS funding). In the mindset of Brat supporters, one is either a fiercely loyal supporter of Dave Brat or he/she is simply a RINO establishment Commie Nazi sour grapes Cantor supporter. There is no gray area in the minds of Brat supporters. If you aren’t with Brat, you are complicit in the liberal conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
We, as common sense Republicans, must do all that we can to reject this Alinskyite rhetoric. Mr. Brat is no conservative. He screams about free markets, but opposes free trade. He wants to make the government more fiscally solvent in a decade, but doesn’t mind if we default on our debt limit next month. He demands instant gratification and success from Republican leadership, while accomplishing nothing himself.
It is time for Mr. Brat to understand that he was elected to lead, not to be a partisan hack. The United States House of Representatives has one job, and that is to represent the voice of your constituents while governing efficiently. The power of the purse should be used wisely and responsibly, which involves working with Democrats and Republicans. Compromise is not a dirty word. Compromise is what separates us from the autocratic dictators of the world.
I hope that the voters of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District will see through this charade and, come next year, exercise their right to vote by choosing a real Republican with real attainable solutions to represent them in Congress.