Like most political books, “American Underdog: Proof that Principles Matter,” by 7th District Rep. Dave Brat, likely will fulfill whatever expectations you have going into it. But in case your summer reading list has no room for 241 pages of self-promotion from a local ideologue, here are some interesting takeaways from the former professor at Randolph-Macon College.
Climate change is unmentioned, though a desire to eliminate “global warming gases” is mentioned in passing, disparagingly.
Slavery is mentioned fewer times than the French Revolution and its guillotine. Brat does acknowledge that there was “far more work to be done” after the American Revolution and that “blacks, women, and Native Americans” still needed rights. And he congratulates himself for a speech honoring Martin Luther King Jr., “a figure not always associated with conservatives.”
Racism, sexism and homophobia are mentioned in passing as things leftists care about. They are movements that have been used to undermine the ethical structures of America’s forefathers.
Surely written before Britain’s vote in June to leave, Brat writes that we “probably ought to be skeptical even about the sustainability of the European Union.” If he weren’t opposed to gambling, he might’ve made a good bet on that one.
First, there’s American exceptionalism — the intravenous fluid dripping through the veins of this book. Then, the half of America on the left isn’t worth engaging with, as they are “constantly dodging core issues, insulting critics, [and] seeking short-lived controversies to distract the public.”
Also, most Republicans — the establishment, the crony capitalists — have lost their way and can’t be trusted. Even within his own House Freedom Caucus for conservative Republicans, he’s outvoted on such things as Rep. Paul Ryan’s election as speaker of the House.
Brat has a personal litmus test for determining someone’s true conservative bona fides, based on the Virginia Republican creed — to which Ryan wouldn’t commit on paper. “I had promised my constituents that I would vote only for leaders who promised to follow through on our Virginia Republican creed, and that is how I operate at home and in D.C.”
It’s a small, lonely (under)dog house.
He cites Plato’s desire to ban poets from an ideal republic. “Poets — like many other types of artists …,” he writes — “can appeal to our passions instead of our reason and lead the republic astray in its political judgments.”
Also, “Nazi pseudoscience really was the sort of thing a poet might cook up, with fairy-tale appeals to medieval and tribal imagery.” Who knew?
Having been elected in 2014, Brat’s legislative struggles take up little space. Thus, much of the book reads like a long, interdisciplinary lecture designed to explain his political beliefs. Socrates, Plato, St. Augustine — it is history, economics and Christianity in undergraduate form.
He bemoans “leftist” campus climate and has much disdain for the secular and relativist elements, the lack of ethics classes and disciplines that don’t root themselves in his “Western canon.”
It’s academic theory in service of political demagoguery. Take it to the beach at your own risk. S