On Tuesday’s Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM, Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA) compared his stunning 2014 victory over incumbent Majority Leader Eric Cantor to the Brexit vote, noting that both events came as big surprises to political commentators and pollsters.
“That’s exactly what this book takes on,” Brat told SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon about his new book American Underdog: Proof That Principles Matter. “It’s just the disconnectedness of government from the people, at all levels — elites making deals in Brussels, elites making trade deals in D.C., with foreign entities making decisions for our local small businessmen, who are getting put out of business by the day.”
“The polling folks that day had Cantor up by 30 [points], and I won by 10, so the elites were off by 40,” he said of his election victory, noting that Brexit polls tended to underestimate the strength of the Leave vote as well.
He saw both his election and the Brexit vote as failures of the elite to manipulate public opinion and pressure the voters to abandon supposedly lost causes. “I just pictured to myself, all the time, just let the voter go into that thing blind, you know, without people watching, and let’s see what happens,” he said. “And it happened.”
Brat noted it happened despite concerted efforts by Cantor and the Republican Party’s “Young Guns” to keep conservative upstarts off the ballot. “They were at Davos, they were at some fancy islands down off the Carolina coast while I was running, putting meetings together on how to slate conservatives off of tickets,” he recalled. “So you had good conservative candidates running nationwide, and this ‘Young Guns’ group, one of their goals was to make sure no conservatives would win, put big money up against them strategically.”
“That’s been a continued frustration in our conference right now, we’ve got 240 Republicans, roughly. Forty of us in the House Freedom Caucus, fighting like crazy for just the policy average Americans want to see in place, and the bulk of the [party’s] money goes to the most liberal members. They get a million, two million, if they’re in tough races from NRCC. We all like playing team ball that way. But then they complain, and they get policy to move in the liberal direction, within a conservative party. It’s just moving backwards,” he said.
Brat’s book is not merely an insider account of his remarkable campaign and early days in Congress — it’s a big-picture account of historical trends that date back to before the Industrial Revolution.
He contends that the “three basic pillars absolutely required for achieving greatness and the foundation for our country [are] the Judeo-Christian tradition, rule of law, and free markets,” further arguing that they necessarily developed in that exact order, each philosophical achievement paving the way for the next.
Without those pillars, he said, “on the economic front, it’s a disaster. We’re growing at zero point seven percent, and no one expects much different from that, coming up in the future. And this is on a ‘sugar high.’ We’re doing $500 billion deficit this year under Republican leadership — so there’s Point Number Two — and the feds got, whatever, $4 trillion on their balance sheet, which is stimulative, and we’ve got $19 trillion in debt, which is stimulative, and we’re a hundred trillion short on unfunded liabilities — that’s Medicare, Social Security. The kids won’t see those programs, and in ten years, all federal revenues will only go to Medicare, Social Security, et cetera. We won’t have a dime left over for national defense and all that.”
“That’s just the economic front,” he continued. “On the foreign policy front, we’re weak. China is narrowly targeting us. We set up the post-World War II Bretton [Woods] liberal order, generous to everybody, our arch-enemies, Germany, Japan — we’re the good guys, give ‘em constitutions, they’re growing, they’re rich now, it’s because of us, that’s the way we roll. We’re win-win.”
Brat said weakness in the face of current enemies like ISIS, and in the face of potential future enemies like China and Russia, fueled the rise of Donald Trump, thanks to an even stronger wave of resentment against the elites than the one which swept him into office.
As for the Republicans, Brat chided the leadership for “putting a 400 percent increase in H-2B visas” into the budget, instead of serious immigration control. “It’s just kind of a slap in the face to the average person,” he said.
He found this H-2B increase astounding because House Speaker Paul Ryan shares his appreciation for the work of Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and other “total free marketeers.” Unfortunately, after keeping control of the federal budget within the House Budget Committee where it belongs, Republicans have once again allowed it to slip into the hands of the leadership from both parties, beginning the sort of negotiations that tend to conclude with huge, sloppy, Democrat-funding “compromises,” despite the GOP’s enormous majority.
“We have plenty of leverage,” said Brat. “We don’t use it. I came in a year and a half ago on Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty. Boehner said he was going to fight it tooth and nail. We didn’t fight anything.”
“It’s a $4 trillion budget. The bad news is, both sides have over-committed. And so they construct an ‘omnibus’ on purpose,” he said. “You can see right now, we pass three or four [bills], military first, the appropriations bills, there’s 12 of them. You pass three or four — whoops, the Ds put in poison pills to blow it up. The press doesn’t report on any of that, so when the Republicans run on principle, trying to reduce the debt or increase economic growth, they yell ‘Government shutdown!’ endlessly. But when the Democrats blow the budget, and put the kids in bad shape, not a word out of the press.”
“Our side is going to fight for a CR [continuing resolution], which will fund the government at its current level through March of next year,” said Brat. “Obama over seven years is scary. Obama as a lame duck? You don’t want to see what’s coming.”
On the foreign policy front, Brat said top military brass has told him “Obama’s national security folks are calling the tactical shots. When our troops are out, they’re calling it from the political wing of the White House.”
He said these policy failures could be traced back to the collapse of institutions that normally would have constrained Obama’s ambitions. “Our main institutions in the country are being crushed by the Left for the last 40 years,” Brat said, naming major universities like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton as examples. Those are the institutions that should be transmitting the three vital ingredients for American greatness Brat identified, so it’s no surprise they were targeted early by the Left.
Our political and cultural elite are also shaped by those major institutions, but Brat was careful to point out that political leadership is, in economic terms, a “demand-driven” problem. In other words, “you get the elites that you deserve.”
“We just think, of course the Judeo-Christian tradition is here to stay. Of course we’re going to do free markets. Of course the rule of law stands,” he said of complacent Republican voters.
“Meanwhile, the Democrats are sitting criss-cross applesauce on the House floor, literally on the carpet. They know how to fight,” he said. “For forty years, they know how to fight. They get into local school districts. The proof of the pudding is, how many parents out there are involved in their local school districts? We got kids in our district now, they say ‘God bless you’ after a kid sneezes, and they get reprimanded. We had a kid go up to a microphone, after they raised money for a dance marathon, and say ‘God bless America.’ Fun kid. And he gets reprimanded by the school administration.”
Brat said these are assaults on the Judeo-Christian tradition that was essential to the strain of enlightened thought that developed into the U.S. Constitution, a worldview that began with the understanding the men are not angels – most definitely including the men who wield power. He explained that’s why power was divided in numerous ways by the Founders.
“Vertically, you’ve got the federal government, state government, local. Horizontally, you’ve got executive, legislative, judiciary. Every single way you could divide power,” he said. “And then in 1776 you get the next miracle across the pond, with Adam Smith and free market economics, and it’s the exact same theory. If you want to avoid monopolies, and you want to avoid the king and centralized power, what does Adam Smith say? The most effective economy is to have a large number of small agents duking it out, and competing. He said that whenever you see three or four business people getting together, you know cronyism is right around the corner.”
“This is 200 years ago, so it’s human nature,” he noted. “These guys knew what human nature is, how to structure an economy. And we don’t. We’re trusting our elites now to run an economy on our behalf, and that’s not the American tradition.”
For example, he was horrified by the Iran nuclear deal, in which financial interests took precedence over the Iran nuclear deal, which didn’t even meet the requirements for Senate debate of a proper treaty – not a trivial concern, given the Founders’ perspective on the importance of trade arrangements and peace treaties.
“It’s ‘follow the money,’” Brat explained. “The cronies write every single line. The Secretary of Trade, undersecretary, double undersecretary is involved in trading corn, sugar, technology, automobiles — line by line by line — and they all have a separate price. That’s why it’s kept hidden. They all have separate tariffs, and restrictions, and import quotas, and all this kind of thing are negotiated line by line, with various countries who want to protect their cronies. So we’re all in a delicate dance with that. It doesn’t take too many pages to say ‘free trade,’ right? If you wanted to have free trade, you could do that pretty simply.”
“We’re not doing any trade deals that benefit the average American,” he charged, finding it “unbelievable” there was any appetite for putting the authority to cut trade deals in the hands of President Obama after the IRS scandal, EPA regulatory abuse, and ObamaCare, which he called “the shocker no one talks about any more.”
“It has had the most devastating impact, but it’s been designed to be so complex that no one knows what it is, and it’s destroying the economy,” said Brat.
Casting an eye over the political scene, Brat applauded the Trump campaign for posing a long-overdue challenge to political correctness and the status quo. He suggested Trump would be wise to select a vice-presidential candidate like Senator Ted Cruz, who could give him credibility with movement conservatives.
However, he said he personally was not interested in running for vice-president, as he was still only in his “rookie year” in Congress. He predicted that Donald Trump had a chance at winning Virginia, even if Hillary Clinton’s running mate is Tim Kaine, because “they don’t have a message that truly gives you hope.”
“Can Kaine and Hillary turn around the economy? No. Can Kaine and Hillary turn around foreign policy? No. Can Kaine and Hillary turn around the culture of America, make us proud to go out there and fight for flag and country? I don’t think so,” he said.
Brat saw Paul Ryan’s ascent to Speaker of the House as a hopeful development after John Boehner, who was “reaching out for Democrats on every major vote” when Brat arrived in the House.
“Paul Ryan promised to go regular order, but that honeymoon thing is coming to an end now,” he warned. “Now the budget’s out of control. We’ve got major fights, major votes coming up. Immigration, the Brexit thing and the United States – it’s probably number two, after the econ and jobs. We haven’t put up a fight there. He’s got to rise to that level, and fight on behalf of us.”
“Ryan gets it intellectually, but where we differ is going to be on the political side,” Brat predicted. “After the Romney loss – he was part of that team, they did the ‘autopsy report,’ and what did that autopsy report say? It said we ought to be scared of our shadow. You ought to be scared of every group there is: African-Americans, Hispanics, women, et cetera. I come out of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Why would I be scared of anyone? I’m proud of our heritage, of everything we’ve set up.”
Brat was ready to put his vital triad of values, the rule of law, and free markets against the real-world results of any competing ideology. He said that if you can show him a country that gets “truly free markets” right, he’ll show you “a country that has extended women’s rights, civil rights, political liberties, high educational attainment, high incomes, et cetera.”
Unfortunately, Brat said Republican leaders too often perform “financial math” instead of the “principle math” that could move the country forward, a condition he found similar to the disconnect between voters and political elites that drove the Brexit vote — a similarity that extends down to the issue of immigration, where both American and British voters see the demographics, politics, economics, and character of their nations being forcibly changed, against their will.
American voters must also contend with an opposition party that is too often afraid to carry out any serious opposition, of the sort that might actually change the political facts on the ground. As Brat put it, based on his personal experience in Congress, Republicans end up debating what kind of tomatoes to serve in the salad bars at federally-micromanaged schools, instead of breaking up the micromanagement regime and throwing bloc grants back to the states — a paradigm shift that would win applause from no small number of registered Democrats, as well as Republican voters.
He lamented that too many Republican lawmakers play ball with the leadership — and spend a great deal of time raising political funds — to further their careers, when they were elected by voters who want to shake things up. Brat himself is voluntarily term-limited to 12 years, and therefore says he will not pursue committee chairmanships.
“Term limits is the Number One corrector of this major problem,” he declared. “But everyone’s aiming at the wrong target. We’re not aiming at correcting the nation’s problems. We’re aiming at getting re-elected.”
“These guys are well-intentioned. They say, when I’m finally chairman, I’m going to change the world radically. But then, when they’re chairman, you’ve paid your dues, you go status quo, and you’re part of the system that’s not capable of changing,” he said.
Brat said the process of re-discovering the flow of values from the Judeo-Christian tradition, through the rule of law, and into free-market capitalism could liberate people around the world, after decades of left-wing indoctrination. (He also made the provocative point that Islam has its own path to the same level of republican enlightenment, as it has demonstrated in centuries past, but it also has its own forms of totalitarian indoctrination to overthrow.)
Instead, we have a cultural consensus shaped by left-leaning academia. “Harvard is your common culture. What they were teaching forty years ago now is what the kids think, and it’s not good. They don’t know the basics of the country, of economics, of political philosophy,” he warned.
Brat is quite willing to put the rich intellectual tradition behind conservatism up against the Left, with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle pitted against the thin left-wing bench of Rousseau and Marx — or, as Bannon put it, “the French Revolution versus the American Revolution.”
“I want to give our side some mental confidence that we have the entire trajectory on our team, and we should be proud of it. It’s what made us great,” Brat declared.
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