Don’t Be Fooled

Digby explains why the emergence of David Brat does not signal a new left-right consensus on economic issues.

There is little doubt that all these years of economic torpor, high unemployment and rising poverty and debt have opened up some potential paths to bipartisan agreement on these issues around corporate welfare and big money influence in politics.

But a closer look at Brat’s rhetoric reveals a man who is not very populist beyond that one issue. He’s a typical libertarian (albeit with a theological twist). And so along with his commitment to end corporate welfare, one would presumably need to take the bitter with the sweet. He thinks it’s unfair that people pay less into Medicare and Social Security than they take out so these programs have to be slashed or eliminated. He believes that Obamacare should be scrapped along with employer-based insurance so that people will buy their own health policies, which will (he doesn’t say how) eliminate the problem of preexisting condition exclusions. He thinks education funding should be drastically cut. He believes that if the country is rich enough it will solve the climate crisis — because rich countries always solve their problems.

In other words, he’s a knee-jerk Ayn Randbot ideologue who thinks reality must bend to fit his ideology, rather than the other way around.

What has to be understood is that people like Brat are proposing authoritarianism dressed up to look like populism. It’s a weird position that acknowledges the little guy is getting screwed but insists the answer to this is to give more power to the big guy. The plan is to “empower” the people by taking away the one self-defense tool they possess, the government — which takes its power from the consent of the governed; of the people, by the people, for the people, etc. — and placing them at the mercy of an imaginary, godlike entity called the “free market,” a phrase that amounts to a euphemism for “plutocracy.” And the Brats of the world sell this nonsense by playing on people’s fears and resentments — of Spanish-speaking immigrants; of a imaginary boogieman called the “liberal elite,” which functions as a scapegoat for what the decidedly not-liberal plutocrats are up to. And, unfortunately, they’re getting away with it.

Let us not for a moment be fooled into thinking that Brat’s populist rhetoric signals a new birth of freedom for anybody but the 1 percent of the 1 percent.