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Brat Voters Aren’t Anti-Semitic But The Media Sure Are Anti-Christian

When David Brat beat Eric Cantor, the media didn’t take the news well. Here are seven of the worst media responses to the free market candidate’s victory.

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in his Republican primary by college economics professor David Brat. Cantor’s steak-house budget was actually $50,000 more than Brat spent on his entire successful campaign.

In his acceptance speech, Brat outlined his belief in six principles — free markets, equal treatment under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional governance, peace through strong defense, and faith and strong moral fiber being necessary for the continuation of the Republic. Sounds pretty reasonable, no? Well, not to folks in most newsrooms, who lost their ever-living minds.

Nobody expected this upset. The vast majority of the media basically hadn’t even heard Brat’s name before he unseated the House’s number two Republican. But that didn’t stop them from almost immediately weighing in on what the election meant. Will you be surprised to learn that the media were pretty sure the election meant bad things for the G.O.P.?

1) Latent — Super-Latent — Anti-Semitism

One common theory proffered by media geniuses, from the New York Times to the New York Daily News to Politico, was that Republican voters in Virginia’s 7th District had suddenly developed a raging case of anti-semitism.

I’m not joking. This was an actual theory that was treated as legitimate.

Keep in mind that Eric Cantor was first elected to Congress by these folks in 2000. They re-elected him six times. He lost this week by 10 points but just two years ago he won his primary by 58 points. Heck, he’s been representing many of these voters since he was elected by them to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1992! But many political reporters are pretty sure that what made this election so different was good old-fashioned Jew hatred. A hatred that was — for mysterious reasons — latent for, what, 22 years? Will Antonin put it well:

The general mood of the media in response to Brat winning was what we in my house-with-young-kids term “unhinged temper tantrum,” but no one showed that better than Reid Epstein, a former Politico reporter now at the Wall Street Journal who simply lost it. Embarrassingly so. Like, I imagine Eric Cantor’s most devoted and crushed staffers didn’t embarrass themselves like this when they rented out the Tune Inn on Wednesday to drown their sorrows and play Creed (?) and Guns & Roses (!) on the juke box. John Podhoretz at Commentary notes, in his blog post “An Appalling Cantor Meme“:

Reid Epstein of the Wall Street Journal proffered his own version in this cute set of sentences: “David Brat, the Virginia Republican who shocked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday, wrote in 2011 that Hitler’s rise ‘could all happen again, quite easily.’ Mr. Brat’s remarks, in a 2011 issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, came three years before he defeated the only Jewish Republican in Congress.” How Brat’s invocation of Hitler relates to Cantor’s Judaism is not clear, but Epstein decided to link them, and the link is suggestive, and not in a good way.

Exactly. This is incoherent. Noting that Brat has a negative view of Hitler has what, exactly, to do with him unseating Cantor? Or is it that Brat was warning people that Hitler was not history’s last monster? That’s a problem why? What in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks? There are many things political reporters should not do in public. Going full Godwin for all the world to see is probably one of them.

2) No, Really, We’re Pretty Sure It Was The Jew Thing

As Podhoretz wrote:

Judaism had nothing to do with his loss, and the only reason for suggesting otherwise is to tar David Brat and the voters of the seventh congressional district in Virginia with the taint of anti-Semitism. Shameful.

It is absolutely reprehensible to throw about such slurs without even a smidgen of evidence — and tons of evidence to debunk the charge — and was even when it was just progressive activists pushing it. But the media kept at it. Perhaps my favorite example of this was Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s “Opponent Resonated With Christian Conservatives in a Way Cantor Could Not,” in the New York Times. She wrote:

But analysts do say that Mr. Brat — who has a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and often invokes God in his speeches — appeals to Christian conservatives in a way that Mr. Cantor simply cannot… Mr. Brat, a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, speaks often about a return to “Judeo-Christian values” and cites his “belief in God.”

Oh, you mean like Eric Cantor did here or like he did in this speech for which liberals mocked him? Or do you mean like Eric Cantor invoked God twice in the first paragraph of his remarks to Values Voters? Like that?

3) The Media Just Don’t Get Religion

It’s hard to pick a favorite example from various other temper tantrum throwers but I’m going to go with Charles Pierce of Esquire. Take it away, Charles (emphasis mine):

As for the winner, Brat seems a very bad combination of serious religious quester and devout Randian economist, a combination that would have had Ms. Rand herself reaching for the opium pipe. He got his undergraduate degree at Hope College in Michigan, which is run by the Reformed Church in the United States, a conservative evangelical wing of the United Church Of Christ. He then got a Masters in Divinity at Princeton, which is a very conservative seminary and now, according to his website,Dave attends St. Mary’s Catholic Church with his wife Laura and their two children: Jonathan, 15 and Sophia, 11. So either he’s a Douthatian convert, god help us, or his faith is all over the lot, which may account for his rather startling announcement last night that he won because God was speaking through the voters of the Seventh Congressional District of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

1) It’s the Reformed Church in America, not the Reformed Church in the United States.

2) They’re not conservative.

3) They’re not the evangelical wing of the United Church of Christ. I mean, what does that even mean, in terms of church polity? They are in fellowship with various mainline church bodies such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ.

4) You couldn’t call Princeton Theological Seminary, which is associated with the aforementioned PCUSA, conservative and you really couldn’t call it very conservative. You couldn’t even call it these things before the 1920s or 1930s, during the Modernist controversy that led to J. Gresham Machen’s departure. Are you insane?

But really, Charles, I’m sure the rest of the article is totally worth paying attention to.

4) About God Working Through Means

After his victory, Dave Brat said:

“God acts through people, and God acted through the people on my behalf. […] We’re just celebrating like crazy tonight, just an unbelievable miracle.”

Now, this is not really controversial for people who are familiar with Christian teaching regarding vocation as well as God working through means. In the course of telling us not to worry, Jesus talks about how God provides us with clothing. And we know that the means of that provision will typically be through other people (the seamstress, the tailor, the shop owner, the retail worker, etc.). The Christian knows the bread we eat comes from God and also that God uses the means of the baker (and other folks) to get it to us. So, as Brat puts it since he’s a Christian, God acts through people. When he says that God acted through the voters to nominate him to this new office, that’s just an acknowledgement that this blessing he just received came from God, using our political system’s electoral means. Please note how Religion News Service’s senior news correspondent Cathy Lynn Grossman (previous noteworthy tweets here and here) responded to this:

Oh snap! Except that, you know, I have about zero doubt that Brat’s response would be, “Yep! The same God!” But other than that, she got him! Not that I really get why religion reporters would want to take such a hostile posture even when it didn’t reveal their ignorance of the people and teachings they’re supposed to cover.

5) It’s Brat’s Fault We’re Confused About Princeton

Brat noted in his campaign bio that “Dave’s journey led him to Princeton where he obtained a Masters in Divinity and on to American University where he earned a Ph.D. in Economics. That education has led him to a career serving the Commonwealth.”

The media were pretty sure he was lying. See, they didn’t know that there was a well known seminary called Princeton Theological Seminary. Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University have reciprocity and share campus space and usually some faculty but they’re separate institutions. A good example of the genre was the Washington Post’s “Brat didn’t go to Princeton Univ.” The story claims that Brat did “biographical inflation” — and note that Princeton University says they have no record of him — but they found out the real truth from, well, Brat and his totally public, easily available C.V. Excellent sleuthing there. Journalist Joshua Green, who says his father is a liberal theologian who spent time at Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote:


6) He’s a Calvinist-Christian Reconstructionist-Catholic

On Brat’s web site, he says he “attends St. Mary’s Catholic Church.” But Time’s Elizabeth Dias says otherwise:


A request for substantiation of this went unanswered. Dias did share her negative views of Brat’s writings on economics and religion. Others in the blogosphere are pretty sure he’s a “Christian Reconstructionist,” something that mostly exists in the fever dreams of American reporters rather than in reality.

7) Bonus Tracks

This Huffington Post reporter was pushing out the “Jewish” angle as well as this one:


Indeed, Brat didn’t just quote the New Testament but … Jesus. That’s not even legal any more is it?

Great work, reporters. You didn’t really shed much light on Dave Brat, free market economics professor, but you did reveal much about your treatment of politicians with religious views you dislike.

Follow Mollie on Twitter.

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