Representative Dave Brat – the conservative favorite who ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary back in 2014 to represent Virginia’s 7th District – held a town hall on Tuesday night, and the media narrative coming out of the constituent meeting was essentially universal. Congressman Brat is one of the most prominent members of the Freedom Caucus, helping block the initial the deeply flawed AHCA Version 1.0 (successfully resisting the extreme political pressure to cave) and playing a crucial role in making the AHCA Version 2.0 palatable enough to conservatives & moderates alike that it was able to pass the House of Representatives. This was Representative Brat’s first town hall since the passage of the AHCA through the House chamber, and the media reporting from the event almost seemed copy & pasted from one article to the next, all attempting to emphasize that voters are ticked off at Brat. The headlines were all essentially exactly the same (as were the articles):
“Raucous, angry crowd grills Virginia Rep. Brat at town hall” (ABC); “Dave Brat Hears An Earful” (US News); Crowd grills Virginia Rep. Dave Brat over health care vote at town hall (USA Today); “House Freedom Caucus Member Gets Earful at Rowdy Virginia Townhall” (Independent Journal Review); “At raucous town hall, Rep. Dave Brat struggles to speak above the jeers” (Washington Post); “Rowdy crowd highlights town hall meeting with Rep. Dave Brat” (CBS6 / WTVR); “Rep. Dave Brat faces fury over health care, Russia at town hall” (CNN); “GOP Rep. Dave Brat faces rowdy crowd at town hall” (The Hill); “Dave Brat Faces Down Virginia Town-Hall Fury” (The Daily Beast); “Left Wing Activists Disrupt Rep. Dave Brat’s Town Hall — ‘You Lie!'” (Breitbart); “Sign-waving critics greet Brat town hall in Chesterfield” (WINA); “Dave Brat Town Hall Gets Heated” (Roll Call); “Dave Brat faces voter anger at town hall over healthcare vote” (Washington Examiner); and “Freedom Caucus’ Dave Brat Faces Angry Constitutents at AHCA-Themed Town Hall (Slate).
(It’s worth nothing that the ABC article, US News article, and USA Today article were even all literally exactly the same – all using the exact same Associated Press original story – but it was nice of the three of them to at least come up with unique titles even if regurgitating the same narrative.)
But if you read through all fourteen articles (which I did), you’ll find that every single one misses or just willfully skips over the most newsworthy part of the entire town hall: leftist members of the audience actually loudly booing the very mention of God and God-given rights. It was an occurrence reminiscent of the embarrassing moments for the Left at the 2012 Democratic National Convention where delegates to the DNC loudly booed the inclusion of “God” and “Jerusalem” in their party platform as well as recently at the 2016 Democratic National Convention where Bernie Sanders supporters interrupted the opening prayer to loudly boo Hillary Clinton.
I went ahead and transcribed the entire exchange between Dave Brat and some members of the audience. The relevant portion of the video (posted online by Rep. Brat’s office earlier today) can be seen below:
Audience Member: As a seminary graduate, do you believe in the separation of church and state, and would it be acceptable to you for churches to support specific candidates?
Representative Brat: Now that’s a loaded question. Alright, so it’s in the Constitution. They got it pretty good — that politics should not establish any religion, right? Everyone good with that one?
[Some Audience Applause]
Representative Brat: But, you should all under the First Amendment have the free expression thereof. Right? So the Founders nailed this pretty good. And now, going one step deeper: Do you want a total separation of church and state?”
Audience Members: Yes!
Representative Brat: Let me check you on that a bit. I don’t think you do. Some of you believe health care is a right. In the Western tradition, rights come from God.
[Audience Begins Loudly Shouting Over Him and BOOING]
Representative Brat: The role of government is to protect those rights. The job of the government is to protect those God-given rights.
[Audience Members Continue Sustained BOOING]
The video is very clear — this was not your typical crowd and there were reports that some members of the audience just gave up and left the town hall entirely, frustrated by the antics of the leftist protesters. The loudest voices — the ones angrily booing — were booing a very basic American principle that still holds broad sway in this nation except for on the extreme Left. And the loudest voices in that audience didn’t strike me as terribly representative of the people of Virginia’s 7th District nor of the country at large. The idea that our rights come from God and that government exists to protect these rights is not a terribly controversial concept (or at least it shouldn’t be), as it is forms the very bedrock of our nation’s founding. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson penned the following words that every American should really know by heart (and that many if not most probably already do): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This is what our Founders believed and this is what our nation was founded on. So, it would seem that Representative Brat had it absolutely correct. Our rights do come from God. And government does exist to protect those God-given rights. That’s something worth affirming, not booing.
So let this be a message to the news media: Try harder. A loud & angry town hall makes for a simple story and an easy narrative, but please get beyond the simplistic headlines and pay attention to what is actually being said in these town halls. You might even find something newsworthy.
And let this also be a message to the Left: Stop booing God, you guys. It isn’t a great look for you.
When I reached out to Representative Dave Brat’s office for a comment, the Congressman’s response was unequivocal:
I have never seen such rudeness displayed in public as what I experienced at my town hall this week.
A sizable group of people in the audience mocked the pastor’s invocation prayer, mocked the mention of church, and mocked the idea that in the Western tradition our rights come from God.
This is not the classical liberal tradition of the Democratic party we all grew up knowing. Something new and toxic is brewing. I don’t think many of my Democratic friends are happy about this new debasement of their tradition. Even Democrats left my town hall early because they were upset and wanted nothing to do with the behavior they witnessed firsthand. It will be very interesting to see who emerges as the next spokesperson for the Democratic Party.