“I think Republicans have a decent chance of taking control of the Senate. Then the party will nominate Rand Paul in 2016, and the Paul-Rubio ticket will carry several important counties in Alabama and Mississippi and the Republicans will lose Congress again.”—David Brooks (pictured), quoted in David Brooks and Gail Collins, “Happy New Year, Politicians. Seriously,” The New York Times, January 5, 2014
Somehow, it seems appropriate that the man who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary had the surname Brat. It speaks volumes about the unruly nature of political debate in the GOP these days.
Republicans may rue the day they nominated political neophyte Dave Brat, just as they did in the months after Christine (“I’m not a witch”) O’Donnell’s 2010 primary win over the more electable former governor Mike Castle for U.S. Senator from Delaware. Amazingly for an economics professor, Brat had to tell NBC’s Chuck Todd that he didn’t “have a well-crafted response” to his question on the minimum wage. Then, according to an article on the interview in The Huffington Post, Brat scrambled: “I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects" of his victory.
Uh-oh. Most politicians complain that reporters don’t ask enough about policy, only the trivial horse-race aspects of campaigns. Here was about as policy-oriented an issue as you can get—one that Prof. Brat has surely thought about, maybe even discussed in his classes—but he has no coherent response.
It makes all the more laughable Rush Limbaugh’s claim about the victor of the race in Virginia: “Brat is not a wacko. He's not a kook. He's an economics professor. He's an economist.”
Rush, as they say, is right--this time. Brat is an economist. His craft has been nicknamed “the dismal science.” But I’m afraid that if the good professor doesn’t learn to talk coherently about his life’s work, he will help the GOP blow its chance to establish a more commanding Congressional bulwark against President Obama. In the process, they will have moved one step closer to the scenario envisioned by David Brooks above.
Put it another way: When Cantor, who was widely viewed as the tip of the conservative spear in Congress a few years ago, is now heralded as a lost possibility for moderation, then the Tea Party has truly, to paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "defined moderation down."