Who is David Brat, the out-of-nowhere college professor who beat Eric Cantor in the GOP primary?
John Judis has an interesting article in the New Republic suggesting that Brat is in the tradition of right-wing populism that is both anti-Wall Street/big business AND libertarian. Judis writes that in his campaign, “Brat and his Tea Party backers gave equal weight to denouncing Cantor as a tool of Wall Street, the big banks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.”
But I’m not sure Brat fits that mold. Take a look at Brat’s Randolph-Macon College website.
Brat has given at least three talks to Virginia banks, according to his website. I don’t know whether he’s been a consultant, but he clearly was paid by these bank lobby groups to give these talks.
According to his CV, Brat is also the director of Randolph Macon College’s BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Program, which is endowed by BB&T, a large North Carolina-based bank.
So when it comes to voting in Congress on bail-outs to banks or on weakening regulations on banks, he’s likely to be in Wall Street’s pocket.
And Brat is no stranger to crony capitalism. For a decade he’s been special assistant to Virginia state Senator, Walter Stosch, Chair of Senate Finance Committee and former Majority Leader of the State Senate, whose campaigns have been heavily funded by banks and other big businesses.
Brat is also a libertarian, a follower of Ayn Rand, whose major idea is to celebrate selfishness. Brat opposes the minimum wage on principle. (Not raising the minimum wage; any minimum wage).
In other words, Brat is the worst kind of Republican – a libertarian AND a tool of banks and big business.
Virginia’s 7th Congressional district is Republican territory. 57 percent of voters voted for Romney in 2012. So I think the only way for Jack Trammel, Brat’s Democratic opponent (also a professor at Randolph Macon) to keep Brat on his toes and avoid a landslide is to run a quirky campaign that demands attention, like Paul Wellstone did in his first Senate race in Minnesota.
One suggestion: The Democrats should erect lots of billboards around the district with a photo of Brat and the slogan: “Brat Worst.” Then: “Vote for Jack Trammel.” It would certainly get people talking.
An earlier version of this column was published at The Huffington Post.
Peter Dreier teaches Politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).