Is Dave Brat the "Elizabeth Warren of the Right"?

Dave Brat for CongressDave Brat for CongressThere’s no shortage of explanations for why Eric Cantor became the first House majority leader to lose a primary since the job was created in 1899. But while it’s useful to ask why Cantor lost, it’s also worth wondering about the flip side: Why did Dave Brat, Cantor’s barely funded, little-known challenger, win?

Obviously these questions are highly related, but they are not exactly the same. The first views the primary contest result through the prism of Cantor’s many weaknesses; the second views it through the prism of Brat’s strengths. To put it another way: It’s not just about what Cantor did poorly; it’s also about what Brat did well.

One of the most interesting possible answers to that second question comes from The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, who describes Brat as “the Elizabeth Warren of the right”—a populist crusader who targeted the wealthy, connected, and powerful rather than campaigning against welfare moocherism:

From what I’ve observed, Brat has not talked like a forty-seven-per-cent conservative complaining about how tax dollars are being shovelled to the undeserving poor (although maybe he does believe that and didn’t emphasize it in the campaign). He comes across, instead, like a ninety-nine-per-cent conservative who sees the real villain as corporate America and its addiction to government largesse. One of his biggest applause lines is about how bankers should have gone to jail after the 2008 financial crisis. Brat is the Elizabeth Warren of the right.

The divisions within the Republican Party since 2010 are not always obvious from the shorthand we commonly use: Tea Party versus establishment, conservatives versus moderates, outsiders versus insiders. Brat’s stump speech, inspired by the country’s top corporate-lobbying group, was notable for the clarity with which it defined these often opaque categories. Eric Cantor “is running on the Chamber of Commerce growth plan,” Brat told a small gathering at the Life Church in Hanover, Virginia, last April. “The Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable. If you’re in big business, he’s good for you. But if you’re in any other group, it’s not good for you.”

What Wall Street was asking from Washington was, “Just keep it stable for us so we can make profits.” Brat went on: “I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits. But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.”

It’s certainly possible to take the Warren analogy too far; Brat doesn’t have the same devoted following as Warren or her Ivy League academic prestige, and he lacks a parallel position within the conservative firmament. But it’s not a bad comparison, as far as it goes. And it touches on some of the ways that liberal populism and conservative or libertarian-tinged populism often overlap—the distrust of elites, frustration with those in power, and anger over the ways that big government and big business, so often assumed to be titanic opponents, work in tandem against the interests of the masses.

It also suggests the political power of this populist critique, even on the right. In recent years, liberals have successfully channeled anger against the joining of businesses interests and political power, but Republican politicians have not been nearly as effective in their attempts to do so, despite the current of anti-elite sentiment that runs through the Tea Party. There are many reasons why the GOP hasn't been as successful (its reliance on corporate donors, its professional connections with corporate lobbying groups, the fact that many of its candidates are themselves part of the business class), but one reason why is that criticism of business, big or small, is simply not part of the identity the GOP has built for itself over the last several decades. That’s not the language it speaks; the GOP is the party that represents business, not the party that criticizes corporate power.

Dave Brat, on the other hand, knew how to speak that language, and it turned out to be particularly effective against an eager, ambitious establishmentarian widely viewed as out of touch with the local interests of his constituents.

In the coming months, I suspect we’ll see more Republican politicians follow his lead and attempt to mount a similar critique of intertwined corporate and business power. That would be a positive development, in my view, for a party that has too often been narrowly beholden to large corporate interests at the expense of larger governing priorities.

But simply mimicking Brat’s rhetoric won’t be enough. Brat’s win showed the power of this approach as a critique, especially against a high-status business-friendly politician like Cantor, but what free-market populists and the ninety-nine-percenters of the right need is more than a critique; they also need an agenda. Brat so far seems to be surprisingly weak on even basic policy details: Asked about his position on the minimum wage yesterday, he declined to answer directly, begging off by citing lack of sleep. That's not the sort of sign that suggests firm legislative commitments, much less a clear and motivating agenda.

Elizabeth Warren’s influence and popularity have as much to do with what she’s for—both in the big picture and in terms of specific policy goals—as what she’s against. What Brat did well was critique his own party, and channel frustration with its current leadership. But for Brat or any other Republican to become the Warren of the right, they’ll need to offer more than a critique; they'll need to suggest a forward direction as well. 

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  • Alice Bowie||

    If Elizabeth Warren Runs for President, I'm voting for Her over Gary Johnson.

    But, chances are, come 2016, Gary's got my vote.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    If Elizabeth Warren Runs for President, I'm voting for Her over Gary Johnson.

    I seem to have misplaced my shocked face..

  • paranoid android||

    I'm just creeped out by the quasi-religious capitalization of "her".

  • ||

    It's a sockpuppet named after a Cheech Marin character. Ignore it.

  • Cis Shitlord||

    Quasi?

  • Alice Bowie||

    Can you imagine Elizabeth Warren as President?

    The country flipped the Fuck OUT with the 1/2 breed Islamic communist mongrel took office.

    I just want to see the spectacle of it all. It would be something to see.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Fail

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    with the 1/2 breed Islamic communist mongrel took office.

    Charming.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Hey, as much as I don't like Obama, those are not my words.

  • Libertymike||

    Those words are accurate, are they not?

  • Sudden||

    I always thought the Obama as Muslim crap was so absurd. However, given his seeming willingness to arm radical Islamists across the globe, one does wonder what would spark such a strategy. Although, I chalk it up to sheer mind-numbing incompetence and complete incoherence in foreign policy, as opposed to any actual islamist ideology.

  • Libertymike||

    Sure, the half breed and mongrel will surely offend, but, for a mass murdering progressive, too bad.

  • M. Report||

    One does wonder what would spark
    such a strategy.

    Preemptive appeasement ?

    Perversity: Compulsive choice
    of the worst possible option ?

    If the above were done to appease
    his perverse base voters it would
    be bad enough; I think he himself
    is a true believer; Scary.

  • Cis Shitlord||

    They are not.

  • JWatts||

    "Hey, as much as I don't like Obama, those are not my words"

    "Hey, as much as I don't like Obama, those are not my words."

    So your a troll?

  • ||

    Can you imagine Elizabeth Warren as President?

    No. No I cannot and I have a wager on her not even getting the nom.

  • Cis Shitlord||

    It's Hillary's turn.

  • ||

    Don't be too sure, jesse. I swear that TEAM BLUE is picking their candidates more and more by solely looking and seeing who TEAM RED hates the most. Warren might have more of a chance than you think just based on that.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Jesse really wants to win the bet. Sudden, not so much.

  • Sudden||

    IT'S JUST FOR $20!

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    The toll for your hole is only $20?

  • Paul.||

    Anyone wanna bet on Romney in 2016?

  • Sudden||

    Oh ye of little faith, Jesse.

    I told you guys, Lizzy would be the nominee, and lo and behold, she's building quite the following. And she's trying to win back my godforsaken generation by sponsoring a student loan forgiveness bailout. She's positioning herself and she now has the aura of inevitability to her candidacy.

  • ||

    It's not that I lack faith, I just have hope.

  • Sevo||

    Alice Bowie|6.12.14 @ 6:13PM|#
    "Can you imagine Elizabeth Warren as President?"

    Can you imagine a lying POS worse than Obo?

  • Ted S.||

    You keep it in a jar by the door.
    (What is it for?)

  • From the Tundra||

    Ouch. Being compared to high cheekbones already?

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HUGeA2lur4

  • AlmightyJB||

    This is the first I've heard that Dave Brat is retarded.

  • R C Dean||

    the real villain as corporate America and its addiction to government largesse.

    Does he think the real villain is the corporate side of crapitalism and corruption, or does he think the real villain is the big government side?

  • Dweebston||

    Why not both?

    Or are you being rhetorical?

  • R C Dean||

    Could be both, although the term "real" villain implies that there is somebody who is more culpable.

    I think the government side is the more culpable, myself. And, as my next post shows, there may be something to the idea that government is being held blameless here.

  • R C Dean||

    Here's why it matters:

    IF you think the main culprit is business, your solution will be more bigger government.

    If you think the main culprit is government, you solution will be smaller government.

  • Paul.||

    IF you think the main culprit is business, your solution will be more bigger government.

    Or a $15 minimum wage.

  • R C Dean||

    a similar critique of intertwined corporate and business power.

    I think you mean "corporate and government power". Unless, like Warren, you hold government completely blameless for crapitalism and corruption, and think its all Big Corp.'s fault.

  • PapayaSF||

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    But the story was broken by the New Republic. I want to wait until a credible news source confirms it.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    That face? It's very punchable.

  • Cis Shitlord||

    Very. I had to close the tab to keep from punching my monitor.

  • Libertymike||

    Just gave it a ten minute perusal and it does not look good for Mr. Hedges. A long and detailed piece.

    I don't know about you PapayaSF, but, for me, those who make plagiarism charges should be held to a very high standard of proof.

    It looks like the standard has been met.

  • PapayaSF||

    I agree. A bit of inadequate rewriting, a forgotten footnote, that sort of thing I can forgive. But this looks very intentional and very extensive.

  • Libertymike||

    Nevertheless, its sad. If it was a Rothbardian ancap, I would feel the same way.

  • PapayaSF||

    I feel a bit sad for him personally, but when a self-righteous political opponent goes down in flames due to his own hubris, it's hard to avoid schadenfreude.

  • Libertymike||

    Hard to argue with that.

    Truth be told, there is part of me that wants to be above feeling the schadenfreude and that failure to do so constitutes a deficiency in my moral being; but, just like looking at the menu does not make me an adulterer, reveling in the ignominy of a Hedges, does not make me a "brutal" libertarian.

  • Yenrab. Knarf Yenrab.||

    Not only was the plagiarism more egregious than I had seen before, but it was shocking how unapologetic Hedges was when it was put in his face. He got very heavy-handed about it. He kept claiming that the people quoted in the Katz piece gave him the exact same quotes.

    Silly fact checker doesn't understand that you can do literally anything so long as you profess a desire to help the poor. It's when you start quoting movie plot summaries from wikipedia in your speeches that you become a plagiarist.

    Someone needs a refresher in Bleeding Heart 101.

  • Paul.||

    if I'm reading this article correctly, this isn't just plagiarism, this is cooking stories.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    H&R's 'John' is the Liz Warren of this site.

    He hates the banks and Wall Street and calls bankers "criminals". He may be a squaw too but I have not seen him squat to piss.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I made a fucking killing this week. What about you?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Let's bet on next week.

    $100,000 to invest. Three trades maximum.

    I know - I don't want a trader mentality where it takes a spreadsheet to figure it out.

    Loser has to admit it on every PM links.

  • Paul.||

    You know who else kept wanting to move the bet to next week?

  • Swiss Servator, CH yeah!||

    He is rolling in wealth from shorting gold to $600 an oz and avoiding all conflict minerals!

  • Sudden||

    I have my share of contempt for some of the banking industry and wall street in the wake of the bailouts, while I recognize and appreciate the ones that neither needed nor wanted the bailout (Wells, and then smaller regional banks).

    However, I haven't seen any support for the notion of throwing these guys into jail. I haven't seen any fraud or criminality in what was done, merely recklessness that should have been punished via bankruptcy instead of rewarded via bailouts.

  • R C Dean||

    I haven't seen any fraud or criminality in what was done,

    I think there was a crapton of fraud being committed during the "robo-signing" go-go days of the mortgage industry, myself.

  • Sudden||

    And most of the fraud was being committed by the little guys: mortgage brokers and borrowers completely fudging stated income to qualify for absurd loans. But it's not politically viable to go after John Q. Dipshit, so instead everyone started blaming the banks for enabling their own idiotic malfeasance.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Robo-signing is a state issue akin to notary public assignment.

    STATES RIGHTS NIGGA!

    (in my best 10ther imitation)

  • Sudden||

    (in my best 10ther imitation)

    I have it on good authority from my lefty friends that you should use a hard "r" at the end there in order to really get the 10ther accent down.

  • ||

    However, I haven't seen any support for the notion of throwing these guys into jail. I haven't seen any fraud or criminality in what was done, merely recklessness that should have been punished via bankruptcy instead of rewarded via bailouts.

    A friend of mine from college went on a whole thing about how Iran executed someone who had committed overt banking fraud with the help of some bankers (false paperwork, the works) and he believed we should be looking at Iran's enforcement model for the US's banking industry for "raping" our society.

    When I pointed out that the government had set up the rules, and given them a bailout for their bad behavior rather than letting them fail he said it was just bankers' lapdogs in government and that I should be careful not to conflate "some people in government" with "the government".

    I pointed out that congress approved and the president signed TARP and that the Federal Reserve has been constantly trying to plump the financial sector for several years and was confused as to who wasn't involved in this. At which point he suggested a "hopefully" bloodless revolution.

    And this is why we don't argue politics with polisci majors on facebook.

  • Sudden||

    Some of us polisci majors took a keen interest in economics while in university. The rest became lawyers.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Were you talking to John?

    In any case you are the rational one.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    John's not here. Put down the straw.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    John is an idiot. I know - that is a low bar. There are several here that might pose a challenge to me in the real world of intellect.

    There used to be a poster named 'Mo' who knew finance. There were others who are long gone.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|6.12.14 @ 7:29PM|#
    "John is an idiot."
    Coming from lying Obo ass-licker, that's rich.

  • Paul.||

    Knowing the rules to Whackbat doesn't make you an intellect, it makes knowledgeable about the rules to whackbat, which have fuck all to do with 'capitalism' or free market ideology.

    You're not... this guy are you?

    BTW: Technigen is my favorite 'boilerroom' corporation.

  • ||

    Coming from a retard who hasn't mastered basic accounting yet, it's rather rich to hear you speculate as to the elite company in the worlds of finance and economics who could possibly hold their own against you. One wonders why you waste such an enormous amount of what is undoubtedly astronomically valuable time shitposting at a libertarian blog.

  • ||

    In any case you are the rational one.

    Not a particularly high bar when he thinks shitty banking practices are a call for a hopefully bloodless revolution.

  • Sevo||

    ..."I should be careful not to conflate "some people in government" with "the government"."...

    Yeah, it's the mendacious 90% that make the rest look bad.

  • PapayaSF||

    From what I know, Jon Corzine should be in the slammer for dipping into customer accounts.

  • ||

    From the Zimbabwe ruling party:

    Truth is, not even clever blacks knew there is white place called Croatia. White World Cup 2014.
  • ||

    And yes this is like 99% a parody account, but I want to believe!

  • Hyperion||

    Ghetto_Scientist ‏@JonguyiseJongi1 3h

    @zanu_pf then you stupid as fuck

  • Yenrab. Knarf Yenrab.||

    Brat so far seems to be surprisingly weak on even basic policy details: Asked about his position on the minimum wage yesterday, he declined to answer directly, begging off by citing lack of sleep. That's not the sort of sign that suggests firm legislative commitments, much less a clear and motivating agenda.

    Let me splain it to you:

    Stupid voters believe the minimum wage is good. Brat is an Austrian-friendly economist and knows that it isn't. He's also a good enough political mind to know that saying true-but-unpopular things is a good way to lose elections, as being forthright about beliefs that are the least bit controversial is the worst possible character trait for a politician. Thus, Brat's not going to say that the minimum wage destroys economic relationships and shutters businesses.

  • Christophe||

    I sure hope that's the case. The fact he's dodging the question suggests so.

  • Invisible Finger||

    He should say the minimum wage increases illegal immigration.

  • ||

    It's not untrue. Price floors on labor as well as astronomical regulatory compliance costs make black market labor where those two things can be avoided much more attractive.

  • R C Dean||

    I just can't get my knickers all bunched up, or read much of anything into the minimum wage non-answer.

    Could be a sensible guy who knows that people say stupid shit when they are exhausted keeping his yap shut because he knows he's exhausted. Which would indicate he has more self-awareness and self-control than nearly anybody in Congress. Which would be a good thing?

  • Hyperion||

    Is Dave Brat the "Elizabeth Warren of the Right"?

    What minority is he claiming to be?

    I started worrying about him the minute I saw him give his victory speech. Something like 'We can't accomplish much by ourselves, but Gawwwdddd...', and I'm thinking 'Oh noes'.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    What's the objection? That is, what did he do worse than the average Va politician?

  • Hyperion||

    I didn't say he did anything wrong, but when I hear politicians right out of the gate crowing about what Gawwdddd could do, I get worried. Keep religion and politics separate. I don't have much confidence in god saving us from the teams and their merry band of lying, stealing, murderous thugs. We're on our own and need guys who realize that and get busy undoing 100 years of proglodyte bullshit.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    The bleevers generally don't tell people to sit with their mouths hanging open in hopes God puts some food in there.

    Instead, they teach that God wants them to go out and do stuff. Tough stuff. Virtuous stuff. And for those who fail to do good for their neighbors, see Matthew 25:31-46.

    The difference from certain non-bleevers is the teaching about the flaws in human nature, making human-created utopia out of the question. A useful lesson, I think.

  • Libertymike||

    You know something?

    I have always liked the way the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee pronounced Gaaaaaaaaaawwwddd during his Thru the Bible Network radio ministry.

    Honest to Gaaaaaaaaawwwwwdddd, I still listen to his radio program on occasion - when I have had enough of sports talk or Levin or Savage or Dave Ramsey or music or language CDs.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Wouldn't Brat indicate German?

  • flye||

    They're the wurst.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    Their whole society has been de-kleining lately.

  • Sudden||

    They've been doing well financially, but they all have the nouveau reich manner about them.

  • Invisible Finger||

    I'll take a dose of God fellating for a while because the allegedly athiest-friendly progtards just replaced the theological God with government-God which is a shit-ton worse.

  • Winston||

    Most athiests think the bleevers are wreckers and kulaks preventing the TOP. MEN. from Getting Things Done.

  • Anon E. Mouse||

    Actually, most atheists don't give a rat's-ass what you believe, as long as you don't try to force your beliefs on others.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Most atheists I know feel the need to throw their disdain for religion in at every opportunity. Sample conversation:

    Atheist: Hey, you going to be around Sunday?

    Me: I've got church at nine but I can come over around lunch.

    Atheist friend proceeds to go on long rant instead of saying "Cool, see you then."

  • Libertymike||

    Have you ever considered the possibility that you might have, on occasion, thrown your "disdain for [atheism] in at every opportunity"?

  • Yenrab. Knarf Yenrab.||

    This. People have every right to believe in all varieties of crazy shit, but believing that they have the legitimate authority to take my money and run my life is a sight worse than believing in Cartesian dualism.

  • Grand Moff Serious Man||

    Eh, if he personally values God that's fine. He did say this:

    “Can Christians force others to follow their ethical teachings on social issues? Note that consistency is lacking on all sides of this issue. The political Right likes to champion individual rights and individual liberty, but it has also worked to enforce morality in relation to abortion, gambling, and homosexuality,” Brat wrote.

    “The Left likes to think of itself as the bulwark of progressive liberal individualism, and yet it seeks to progressively coerce others to fund every social program under the sun via majority rule. Houston, we have a problem. Coercion is on the rise.”

    If he wants to crow about Jesus let him, as long as we hold him to those two statements.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Can't say I agree with him on abortion.

    The issue of abortion is at what point does a living human being become a person entitled to legal protection against people who want to kill him/her?

    If Brat says the law should wait until birth, he's still enforcing his "religious beliefs" against the killing of newborns.

    If he thinks the law should only protect living humans if there is a social *consensus* that they should be protected, then so much for prosecuting lynching in the Jim Crow South! There was hardly a consensus in favor of prosecuting lynchers.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    And what happened to his pledge on his Web page: "Dave will protect the rights of the unborn..."

    http://davebratforcongress.com/protecting-values/

  • M. Report||

    Last I looked his website still says:
    We have always respected the rule of law.

    His opponents do not; Rule of man
    through selective enforcement is
    their avowed goal.

  • Barnstormer||

    Perhaps you should consider other arguments: it is possible to be against abortion on other than religious grounds.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I think that was part of my point.

  • Robert||

    And for me, the issue with killing something is whether it, or someone else that owns it, would be bothered by the knowledge that it would be legal for someone to kill it.

  • Winston||

    Well he's going to have win the election first.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Most.Republican.District.In.Virginia.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I'm pretty sure that Lizzy Learjet spend a crap-ton of money wresting the seat from Scott Brown -- nor am I certain that she's a hero to anyone but your SJW types.

  • The Last American Hero||

    No. My friends that are firmly in Team Blue look at her the way people around here look at Rand Paul or Justin Amash.

  • PapayaSF||

    It's amazing. The lying about ethnicity, the plagiarized recipes, the thesis an advisor considered "academic fraud," the hypocrisy (flipping a foreclosed house): none of it seems to matter, because she Says The Correct Things.

  • Libertymike||

    Chief Spreading Bull is no Tatanka-Ioytanka - which reminds me that one of my favorite days of the year is fast approaching.

  • ||

    "Is Dave Brat the "Elizabeth Warren of the Right"?

    Brat is part Cherokee?

  • RishJoMo||

    Ovewr the hill and over the road. WOw.

    www.WentAnon.tk

  • Twoiron||

    There is nothing fake about Dave Brat. Warren, on the other hand, is an utter fraud. The only thing genuine about her is her Obama-like contempt for America.

    Other than that, great article, Peter. I hope your professor gives you a C-minus.

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