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Who is David Brat? Meet the Christian conservative who just shook up the GOP establishment

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
Dave Brat

RICHMOND, VA - Sometimes all it takes to defeat a giant is a slingshot and divine intervention.  At least that’s what David Brat, the newly-nominated Republican candidate for Congress from Virginia’s 7th district, is crediting for his surprise primary win against incumbent House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

“It’s a miracle,” Brat told Fox News the night of his victory. “I’m a believer, so I’m humbled that God gave us this win. I was blessed. … God acts through people. And God acted through the people.”

The Brat vs. Cantor matchup was a quintessential David vs. Goliath political allegory.  When Brat – a virtual unknown – went up against Cantor and his army of establishment backers, his only weapons were his meager $200,000 in campaign funds and his unshakeable faith that he was doing the right thing.  Cantor’s war chest, on the other hand, totaled nearly $5.5 million.

Cantor has been a reliably pro-life vote in the House of Representatives, earning him a 0 percent lifetime rating by NARAL Pro-Choice America and a 100 percent pro-life rating from the National Right to Life Committee.  But some observers have criticized him for being too quick to compromise, particularly since joining the ranks of the GOP leadership.  Last summer, it was Cantor who introduced exceptions for rape and incest into the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. 

Brat was outmanned, outgunned and outspent. No one outside the district even paid attention to the race – it was a foregone conclusion that Cantor was going to win.

It was early in the evening when the race was called – and suddenly, people started paying attention.  Somehow, an unknown college economics professor had bested the standing House Majority Leader, and not by a little bit.  David Brat slew his Goliath with a solid double-digit lead: 55 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 44 percent.  It was the first time a standing House Majority Leader had been beaten in a primary since the position was created in the 1890s, and it was a landslide.

As the shockwaves started rippling outward from the Capitol and across mainstream and social media, one question was raised over and over again: Who is David Brat?

The answer to that question seems to hinge largely on Brat’s religious faith.  First and foremost, Brat is a Christian.  Upon accepting his party’s nomination, he stepped onto the stage and read aloud from a paper with a handwritten Bible verse on it: “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God!’” (Luke 18:27)

He again credited divine intervention for his win, telling his supporters, “This is a miracle from God that just happened. … We believe in God, who gave us this miracle today. ... I love every single person that God made on this planet.”

Brat was raised Presbyterian and describes himself on his website as a “man of deep faith.”  In addition to his Ph.D. in economics from American University, he holds a Masters in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and says his Calvinist tendencies heavily inspire his economic and political outlook.  His wife, Laura, is a Roman Catholic, and the couple and their two children primarily attend her church, according to the campaign’s website.

Brat makes no secret of the fact that his faith informs his political positions.  In an essay written for the journal Interpretation in 2011, he called for Christians to be bolder in the public sphere, arguing that the problems society faces can only be solved by spreading Christian morality.

“Nietzsche’s diagnosis of the weak modern Christian democratic man was spot on,” Brat wrote. “Jesus was a great man. Jesus said he was the Son of God. Jesus made things happen. Jesus had faith. Jesus actually made people better. Then came the Christians. What happened? What went wrong? … We appear to be a bit passive.”

“We should love our neighbor so much that we actually believe in right and wrong, and do something about it,” Brat added. “If we all did the right thing and had the guts to spread the word, we would not need the government to backstop every action we take.”

While much has been made of Brat’s staunch opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants, and its role in his surprise takedown of Cantor, there are other issues Brat finds equally, if not more important.

On his campaign website, he highlights his pro-life, pro-family views, promising in bold text to “protect the rights of the unborn and the sanctity of marriage, and … oppose any governmental intrusion upon the conscience of people of faith.”  He says the judicial and executive branches have “usurped” the right to life. 

“Human life is sacred, as proclaimed by our founding documents, and I will always support laws that protect life,” Brat proclaims. “Our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness precede the existence of government and come from God, the Author of Nature.”

Brat’s faith is also strongly integrated with his economic philosophy.  In his essay for Interpretation, he suggested that a widespread revival of Christian values would solve many of the problems with modern capitalism.

“Preach the gospel and change hearts and souls,” Brat wrote. “If we make all of the people good, markets will be good. Markets are made up of people.”

“If markets are bad, which they are, that means people are bad, which they are,” he added. “Want good markets? Change the people. If there are not nervous twitches in the pews when we preach, then we are not doing our jobs.”



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