I’ve been writing a lot lately about poor Dave Brat, who has had a rough couple of weeks.
I don’t mean to harp on Brat’s troubles dealing with the rise of liberal activism in his district. Dave was my colleague at Randolph-Macon College, and by all reports was a great teacher and was certainly fun to talk to over lunch. But he’s bringing these troubles on himself, in part by being a big fat liar.
To be more specific: Brat is talking out of both sides of his mouth, misleading his constituents and, along with his cowardly Republican colleagues, helping to undermine democracy. (Sorry, Dave, but it’s true.)
Brat, like many Congressional Republicans, is getting hassled by constituents who want him to host a town hall meeting. He’s referred to these folks as “paid protestors,” which is the new Big Lie the Republicans are spreading.
Brat held a virtual Town Hall on Facebook earlier this week where he backed off his comments about “women up in his grill.” According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, he claims “he never said all of his constituents were paid protesters, noting that ‘the majority of the folks who are contacting us are sincere folks with policy questions.’”
That would be a nice admission, if it weren’t for the fundraising letter he sent out the VERY NEXT DAY. Entitled “The Left is on the attack,” Brat’s letter claims that “left-wing billionaire George Soros is spending millions of dollars to fund groups committed to organizing perpetual protests. Protesters are being encouraged by Democrat operatives to be ‘angry’ and disrupt public meetings held by Republicans…. In California, one Soros-backed group even turned violent — smashing windows and assaulting citizens.”
Sure, he’s not claiming outright that protestors are getting checks from Soros, but he’s certainly implying it. This is part of a clear GOP strategy to dismiss opposition as illegitimate, as the “paid protestor” lie has been used by Brat, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Senator Cory Gardner and others. So Brat might be following a GOP playbook here, one shared by the President himself. That still doesn’t make his dishonesty any less galling.
Yes, of course there are groups helping to organize protestors against Trump and the GOP. That’s how political organizing works; operatives, activists, and organizers engage in efforts to educate people on issues and spur them to action. But the recent wave of Democratic and progressive activism is growing organically due to fear and anger at the Trump victory last November. Organizers (and certainly George Soros) are not fabricating this energy; they’re just trying to harness and direct it.
When is Brat going to decry the entire Tea Party movement because their leaders were given training by the Washington, DC group FreedomWorks? When is he going to call attention to the insidious, sinister letter-writing and activism campaigns organized by the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank? Until he does that, he can stuff his hypocritical complaints about George Soros and “perpetual protest.”
By demanding they face their constituents, progressive organizing groups like Indivisible and MoveOn.org are adopting a simple, but powerful strategy: ask Brat and his fellow members of Congress to do their damn job. If Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or support the Trump Administration, then they need to defend their actions to their constituents. Sure, those constituents may be hostile or confrontational. But this is the job these guys signed up for.
Brat has responded by scheduling a meeting in friendly Nottoway County, in the farthest southwest corner of his district. Constituents are already complaining about the choice of a smaller venue far away from the center of his district, in what appears to be an effort to try to limit the size of the crowd.
Avoiding scheduling town halls, making them difficult to attend, or even running out the back door when constituents do show up is not how participatory democracy is supposed to work. Every day, the post-Trump GOP seems interested in highlighting the current moral bankruptcy of their party.
If they don’t find a way to respond to constituents, this may turn into political bankruptcy. These newly activated citizens are not going away. Brat may be in a safe GOP district, but even his Tea Party friends might tire of someone who keeps getting exposed as a lying coward.