I caught up with Dave Brat on the phone for an exclusive interview at 10:45 a.m. EST this morning. Unlike all the other Congressional rookies, Brat needs to hit the ground running since Eric Cantor chose not to complete his term.
Steinberg: “Unlike any of last night’s rookie victors that I am aware of, you are taking office immediately. You’re being sworn in November 12, since Eric Cantor chose to not finish his term, and Virginia held an additional special election last night to give your district a representative for the next two months. Do you have any specific plans for this extra session you have as a representative?”
Brat: “First of all, we will be getting staffed up and getting the mechanics of the office in order, and Part Two will be handling all the bills on the way already. But Part Three is the main element, which I pledged to the Seventh District, and that’s to immediately start discussing the meat of these economy-related bills that are coming before us, having the hard economic discussions on the debt, deficits, the unfunded liabilities, taking on Obamacare, and securing the border.”
Steinberg: “On that, your district knows, viewers of your debate with Jack Trammell know, but most of America probably isn’t aware this morning that Dave Brat is the only Ph.D. economist in Congress. Democrat or Republican, House or Senate.
You were talking free market theory on the campaign trail! Did it register, did they respond well? Because this is a real litmus test – generally stump speeches avoid the nuts and bolts, the headier, high-level discussions on meney, thinking they’ll lose the audience.”
Brat: “I am very lucky here in the Seventh, and this isn’t a talking point, we have Patrick Henry from down in Richmond, and James Madison from up in the northwest of the district. The Seventh District is steeped in liberty. And they understand here that liberty is interconnected with economic liberty. It’s not a coincidence that Adam Smith, the founder of free market economics, wrote his book in 1776 as well.
I gave stump speeches that included extensive sections which were like reading the speech’s footnotes on economic topics. The press made a bit of fun of me – but the people loved them. They loved chatting back and forth. This wasn’t just me being an educator, we were all sharing economic ideas, constituent and representative. Because that’s this job.
We all know the free market system made this the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, yet right now we are moving away from that logic. Obamacare controls one-fifth of our economy. It’s a top-down, mandated, government control system. Before it was enacted, when it was theoretical, we could’ve learned the easy way! We could have listened to the free market economists, they told us exactly what was coming. Instead we passed it, waited to see, and now the bills are in the mailbox and the costs are shocking people.
When they see $5000 deductibles, the premiums rising about 30% at a minimum, the silver plan, the low plan, no one can afford it. But somehow the government can afford it? None of it is rational.”
Steinberg: “The takeaway here is that you are objectively not a conventional candidate to be bringing free market economics straight to the stump, yet you got a tremendous response, perhaps an unexpected response in D.C.
Now it looks like we saw something similar with Ed Gillespie last night. The polling simply didn’t match the ground in Virginia. You did some appearances with Gillespie – do you have any insight into how the Virginia grassroots and the Virginia GOP’s GOTV is outperforming the predictions? There seems to be an exceptionally efficient level of organization there right now.”
Brat: “Yes, absolutely, but it’s not just Virginia. It’s clear there was a national wave. Ed Gillespie did very well, I hope he manages to cross that line, I hope there’s a recount that gets him over the finish line, but I think it’s everything. It’s all resonating.”
“It’s not only the desire for economic freedom, but fighting back on government overreach, IRS intrusion, national security weakness, Ebola outbreaks, humanitarian crises at the border. All of it is the federal government.
I’m not even getting into the heavy economics. The entitlement programs are all insolvent by 2030. Sixteen years from now, senior programs are insolvent. But all the Democrats did was pull out the playbook, run negative ads, false, misleading ads. If we don’t do something about it, there won’t be any senior programs! They say trying to reform these programs is us trying to hurt seniors. Nothing could be further from the truth. I pledged to preserve and protect, to keep those programs in place for the next generation.
One side puts their heads in the sand, the other side is telling the truth to the country. That’s what I think you saw last night. Americans woke up, Americans know what’s going on.”
Steinberg: “At least for today, it seems we are seeing a cohesive GOP. I assume you received some congratulatory calls from Priebus, Boehner, etc. last night. Are you seeing a response from the national party towards finally embracing conservative newcomers in a way that repairs the fractures we saw in the primary season?”
Brat: “We have some 300 bills from the House waiting to go over the Senate, and yes, I received 12 to 15 calls from colleagues, senior leaders calling me, the rookie, to broach topics and to congratulate me, which was an honor. I think we’re going to have a good team moving forward. I ran on the six principles of the Republican Creed, I think our leadership is going to follow that same logic, and together we’re going to make some history.”
Steinberg: “For a little red meat, do you see this as a mandate?”
Brat: “Yes. I won 61-37. That’s a mandate. I was very clear on my policies. My opponent, on the other hand, his website had no policy positions. There was absolute clarity on our side on repealing Obamacare, securing the border, paying down the debt, getting this economy growing again. The people spoke just as clearly.
The responsibility now on the GOP is to execute immediately. To follow the will of the people. To listen to what they just said and to get it right.”