Fake Intellectual Congressman Dave Brat’s Confused Rant on Nietzsche, Jesus, Hitler, Markets, and Obamacare
Maniacally right-wing Virginia congressman Dave Brat, who kneecapped (formerly maniacally right-wing) congressman Eric Cantor in 2014, intimates fake Republicans like Paul Ryan better remember the bloodthirsty Republican base will totally crush members of Congress who don’t entirely eviscerate Obamacare.
Prior to his upset defeat of Cantor, Brat received a Masters in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in economics from American University, and subsequently worked as an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, where he taught classes on the morality of capitalism funded by financial octopus Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T).
As this Politico interview indicates, Brat is one of those preening former professors who likes to remind everyone he was a professor and has a PhD. Which is usually a bad sign. Brat sees himself, like Donald Trump, as a direct channel to “the people”. And on their behalf he warns Paul Ryan and others who don’t know and respect “the people” as he does, that they better kowtow or face the same carnage that greeted Eric Cantor when he wandered from his flock.
Which of course doesn’t prevent Dave Brat from talking down to the rest of us, who are presumably not “people”. Here’s an example of how Congressman Brat would apply his deep professorial knowledge to establishing the law of the land. In 2011, when he was still just world-renowned professor of morality and economics at Randolph-Macon, Brat published an essay that included this passage:
“Nietzsche’s diagnosis of the modern Christian Democratic man was spot-on,” he said. “Jesus made things happen. Jesus had faith. Jesus actually made people better. … Hitler came along, and he did not meet with unified resistance. I have the sinking feeling that it could all happen again, quite easily.”
When queried by the Politico reporter, Brat indicated (quite cheerfully, apparently) that, oh yes, he still had that sinking feeling.
“We’ve become weak, and our kids don’t know what human rights are anymore,” he said, expressing disgust at children being taught that every opinion is equal and valid. “In a classroom setting, you mention tyrants, like Hitler and other tyrants in history, and you say, ‘What if they oppose you? Are they welcome to their opinion? In this modern, secular society, where all opinions are equal, do you really believe all rights and all opinions are equal?’ And they say, ‘Well, I guess not.’ And I say, ‘Well, I guess you better study hard and pick a system that you like here, right?’”
Ah yes. Markets, Hitler, Jesus, Nietzsche. Obamacare. It all makes sense now.
But here’s the problem. Brat’s confused moralizing and patronizing pedantry does nothing to help real people deal with real problems in the real world, which is presumably his real job. Brat’s Tea Party / Freedom Caucus obsession with “the base,” the true believers for whom politics is a search-and-destroy mission, is entirely at odds with this concept of the (pretty mundane but more noble) job of the legislator.
Brat’s threats to impale deviants on the spears of “the base” subverts, undermines, and essentially destroys requirements of governing. In this sense, Brat’s weak impersonation of an intellectual mostly functions as a Trojan Horse to mask the importation into Congress of an incredibly divisive and self-defeating politics of gaslighting and agitation.
This is not a good idea. Hillary Clinton – Please stay in the woods! Seriously! New urban pantsuit sightings will only delight and comfort your enemies and activate PTSD for pretty much everyone else. Please tell Bill to stay in the woods, too. Chelsea is fine. No one minds Chelsea in the urban habitat. But you are now old and pretty useless. Enjoy your retirement with husking bees and sweater-knitting. Feel free to write a book. Dance awkwardly to Fleetwood Mac. But you are now part of the problem, not part of the solution. Seriously. Let the youngers lead the way going forward. You just have too much baggage.
I’ve been contemplating the “swarm” tactic myself. What I’ve learned from forays onto Breitbart is that the trolls who live there view it as their own private troll resort (their own “safe space”), and really are knocked sideways when people who don’t agree with them show up and make their presence known. My hunch is that if opponents swarmed Breitbart and overwhelmed the most incendiary comment threads, Breitbart would become less a pleasure cruise through the swamp for the MAGA trolls. Not a bad way to drain the Trump / Bannon swamp!
Whether this is a good use of anyone’s time is another question. But maybe worth considering if it spoofs trolling or makes it less appealing. On an individual level, the momentary impact might be to escalate tensions, but over time could neutralize the social chemistry and simply make this kind of communication style less appealing or interesting for people.
The Deconstruction of Steve Bannon
We can now assess the content and quality of the White House seep, the not-quite-movement conservatism upon which Donald Trump has risen to power, like a toad upon a geyser. This capacity to assess is a good thing, perhaps the only way we have, at least in the short term, to steer clear of emotional chaos activated by extrusions of Donald Trump’s fevered mind – incessant social media chatter, tabloid focus on personalities, shattered boundaries between personal and professional, a looming collective, paranoid psychosis.
I don’t personally know Steve Bannon or any of the other various satraps and factotums and acolytes who accompany this political movement and whose ideas now drive policy at many levels of government. But I do know that if we fear Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate and in most state governments, we need to focus less on who these people are as individuals (a major preoccupation for the click-driven media and an incredible waste of time for the rest of us) and more on what they want to do. The Republican Party did not magically seize power. Trump’s election is only the latest – if most surreal – chapter of a slow-motion political creep on to land of a hyper-conservative Republican sea monster. Those scared shitless by Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Charles Koch, Robert Mercer, Peter Thiel, et. al. would do well to avert their gazes from the daily media squalls – in other words to stop reacting – and instead reclaim the initiative (and the future), with plans, roadmaps, and strategies that attend to the larger ideas, themes, and forces that shape our reality and determine our destiny.
As citizens, we simply have to be more clear about our jobs, and our goals. For me, the starting point is actually that, on many topics, these strange Tea Party people are almost right. They get just close enough. This is their genius. And their pathology. So it’s really important that we appreciate the meaning of their words, many of which are coded (or at least shibboleths for the initiated), and separate from those words that which is worth harvesting from that which is over-wrought, over-ripe, and toxic. Let’s break it down.
What follows is, by design and by necessity, an impressionistic rendering of the ideological landscape of American movement conservatism. There is nothing tidy or organized or logical or structured about this political movement. Journalists speak of the movement’s “intellectual source code,” and that is an apt and clever phrase, but as source code goes, it is bug-ridden and messy, potted with security holes, loaded with traps and loops. Given the mess, there is no real way to traverse or map this landscape of ideas without approaching it, and imagining it, as a whole that is far less than the sum of its parts. But the parts themselves – fragments and shards of ideas and impulses – are each in their own way fascinating and revealing and deserving of scrutiny on their own terms. We begin with Steve Bannon, Dark Enlightenment Sith Lord whose ideas and influence provide the single most coherent philosophical basis for considering the benighted path on which we now travel.