Before attending Dave Brat’s Town Hall in Blackstone, VA last night, I thought I knew all I cared to know about Dave Brat. His overconfident, condescending manner, his insistence on drawing attention to his seminary education and his academic career and affiliation with Steve Bannon made me sure he was nothing but pure evil.
What I have decided after attending the Town Hall is that he is worse. He may not be as evil and nefarious and I thought, but he is lazy and uneducated on the things that matter most to his voters. He is failing miserably at representing the 7th District of Virginia.
I know Dave Brat never expected to beat Senate Majority Leader Eric Cantor back in 2014. He probably didn’t know he was the test case for Steven Bannon’s plot to take over the government. He was just as surprised as anyone else to find out just how much Virginia voters hated Eric Cantor. So it’s not entirely unforgivable that when he took office as the Tea Party’e darling, Brat didn’t know much about the official Republican platform and what the policies were that drive the positions.
What is unforgivable is that nearly three years later, Brat STILL doesn’t know anything about policies.
And that willful ignorance of government policy is what was on display last night.
To be fair, Brat did accept a lot of specific, pointed questions about what he would support and why. But what isn’t fair is that he didn’t answer those questions. He hemmed and hawed, juked and jived, and did anything necessary to avoid giving substantive answers on anything.
On the question of protecting the EPA, he repeated a puzzling answer he’s given before: That the “number one thing you can do to have clean air and clean water is to increase economic growth. It turns out that rich people like clean air and clean water.”
On questions regarding separation of church and state, he reliably fell back into his standard mumbo-jumbo answer of Judeo-Christian ethics, his church at St. Mary’s, James Madison, and somewhere in that rambling answer stated that as Americans we get our rights from God, at which point several protestors corrected him by yelling, “Not God, the Constitution!” Alarmingly, he doesn’t seem to know the difference between God and our Founding Fathers.
He falsely asserted that Planned Parenthood–and he stressed the Parent-part of the name–doesn’t provide prenatal screenings, when in fact, they often do.
When asked for an example of how he uses ethics to reach out to the other side of the aisle, he laughingly said, “Read my book!”
And when asked if he believed in climate change, he responded that sure he does, the climate changes all the time. What he doesn’t seem to get is that voters are serious. The country faces serious concerns. We understand that not everyone has the same solutions to our problems. But an attempt to grasp the difficulty of the problems we face and to provide coherent, well-thought out answers to questions that come up repeatedly should be the minimal effort he puts into this job of being our representative.
His pattern of spouting off half-formed ideas is alarming in its laziness. To improve his game, I would suggest the professor take the rules of the classroom to heart and actually crack open a book and study. He should study the policies that are before him and research the consequences of enacting those policies. Look at all the possible ways his constituents and fellow citizens could be impacted—intentionally or unintentionally—by the results of those policies. Remember that in real life, there are a lot of variables, and things won’t go exactly as planned. Don’t ignore those variables because inevitably they will affect the outcome. And I’d suggest he take a few field trips. Visit a few Planned Parenthood centers. Talk to the doctors, nurses and even patients who go there for care. Take a trip to a rural school. Ask how far those kids’ parents would be expected to drive to take their kids to a charter school. Ask if their jobs would allow them the time to do that. Visit a suburban school. Find out how many kids would be affected if you removed the nutritional guidelines for free and reduced lunches. Visit a special ed classroom. He should ask himself if he truly believes a charter school is equipped to handle all the different needs of those children. And if their parents are financially able to meet their unique medical needs once he “keeps his promise” to repeal and replace the ACA with HSAs that most are unable to fund..
He should understand that governing isn’t a multiple-choice quiz. It’s a long, complicated project—one where experiments can often fail, but it’s the responsibility of the people and their representatives to work hard and to stay on task to ensure the best possible outcome for all.
Once he’s done all his homework , he should put together some real reasons why he is for and against certain legislation. He can’t skip the questions that are too hard, or give an incomplete answer. He has to put real work into answering each and every concern to the best of his ability.
Then, if enough people buy into his answers, he might be able to legitimately start campaigning for the next 12 years, as he said he hopes to. (Although that’s in direct conflict with his original campaign promise to fight for strict term limits.)
But for now, for his lack of effort and understanding of the real lives of the constituents across his 10 county district, Dave Brat deserves an F.
We will be watching to see how much he’s willing to work to improve.