Despite a Republican convention featuring public rules fights and Donald Trump being stiff-armed by his closest rival to the nomination, one of the leading conservative insurgents in Congress believes the party is unifying around core principles and could get a lot of good done for the American people if GOP congressional leaders would just do it.
Rep. David Brat, R-Va., shot to prominence in the summer of 2014 when he stunned then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a congressional primary. Brat is also the author of “American Underdog: Proof that Principles Matter.”
While he admits this has been a very contentious year within Republican ranks, Brat believes the party can coalesce around the key pillars of American greatness and western civilization itself.
“The Judeo-Christian tradition, the rule of law and the free market system. Those three happen in a certain order in western canon. If you look at countries that have those three pieces, you’re looking at countries that have good civil rights, political liberties, role of women, clean environment, better economic growth, higher standard of living, good health care,” said Brat.
He believes the Republican nominee appreciates that bedrock.
“Donald Trump is affirmative on all three of those,” said Brat. “The left is a full-frontal assault on all of them.”
Brat quickly admits several differences remain between Trump and many Republicans, but he sees the amount of common ground slowly growing.
“There’s some divergence between (House Speaker Paul) Ryan and Trump and various groups. But on those three pillars that made us great, we’re all unified. We’re all fighting for those three. Sometimes we get lost down in the weeds. But at the 30,000-foot level, I feel pretty good about where we’re going,” said Brat.
Brat wants to see much more in the way of specifics from Trump, but he believes what we’ve seen so far is encouraging.
“Trump’s already put some stuff out on paper: promises on judges, he’s got a tax plan on paper and he’s been zooming in more and more with Mike Pence. That’s a good sign of a conservative move, so I think we’re heading in the right direction,” said Brat.
While details of Trump’s agenda trickle out, congressional Republicans are waging their own public relations campaign. Known as “A Better Way,” Speaker Ryan is laying out policy proposals in a variety of areas designed to shrink government and roll back government regulations in the lives of Americans. Brat think some proposals are better than others, but says one question bothers him about the House GOP campaign?
“The whole question is when are we going to do it. We’ve been in charge for four years, six years. Senate. House. The deficit this year is $535 billion under Republican leadership,” said Brat, who notes that issues ranging from tax reform to authorizing military action to immigration need to be addressed.
“People want to see us take some action now. not always promising action a year later,” said Brat.
Republican critics of Brat’s approach often say such demands are unrealistic, since President Obama would never sign most legislation passed by a Republican Congress. Brat has no use for that mindset.
“I absolutely reject that logic. The whole point is to put legislation we believe in through the House. Then the Senate has to do their job. Then let the president sit there and veto one good piece after another,” said Brat.
Brat, a former economics professor, is most concerned about legislative dawdling on spending and debt. He points to Congressional Budget Office reports showing we are just ten years away from spending all revenues on mandatory spending alone. He says this is a problem caused by both parties.
“There are too many big spenders that want to dole out $4 trillion to the cronies. That’s just ruining the country,” said Brat.
He says without urgent action, future generations can kiss entitlement programs goodbye.
“Our kids are not going to have Social Security and Medicare. They’re both insolvent in 15 years unless we get our heads on straight. So we’ve got some heavy lifting to do quickly,” said Brat.
Brat says America is more than capable of making a strong comeback. He says the people in this country are strong but government needs to do its job.
“Our institutions are broken. The American people are the greatest people on the earth. We’ve been exceptional for over 200 years, outperforming the world on every single metric you can think of. The American people have it in them. They have the right stuff. We’ve still got our faith,” said Brat.
“But the elites are blocking our faith. They’re blocking our work ethic. They’re blocking the institutions,” said said Brat.