Meet your newest Tea Party Catholic

If you haven’t already collected your share of fast facts on David Brat, who primaried congressional majority leader Eric Cantor out of office yesterday, here are some worth starting with:

He ran with strong Tea Party support and largely on an anti-immigration message, referring to undocumented migrants as “illegals.”

He’s a professor of economics at Randolph-Macon University in Virginia, where he also teaches ethics; he holds a master’s degree from Princeton Theological Seminary; he describes himself as a "free-market, Milton Friedman economist" and his scholarship includes work with titles like "God and Advanced Mammon — Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?" and "An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand"; he says he stands for the main tenets of the “Republican creed: free markets, equal protection under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional restraint, strong military and belief in God.”

He is a Roman Catholic, though his position on immigration puts him politically far more in line with white evangelicals, among whom support for immigration has dropped to 48 percent; 63 percent of Catholics support immigration reform, as do 68 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans.

He is either still celebrating or may need to brush up on actual policy, if this exchange from "Morning Joe" is any indicator. A snippet of his answer to a question from Chuck Todd about the minimum wage: 

"Minimum wage, no, I'm a free market guy," Brat responded. "Our labor markets right now are already distorted from too many regulations. I think Cato estimates there's $2 trillion of regulatory problems and then throw Obamacare on top of that, the work hours is 30 hours a week. You can only hire 50 people. There's just distortion after distortion after distortion and we wonder why our labor markets are broken."

Todd then pressed Brat on the question.

"Um, I don't have a well-crafted response on that one," Brat finally conceded. "All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation's productivity. Right? So you can't make up wage rates."

As for arming Syrian rebels: “I'd love to go through all of this but my mind is — I love all the policy questions but I just wanted to talk about the victory ahead.”

And as of 10:50 a.m. eastern, his website is down.

The post-mortems on Cantor also make for good reading, starting with E. J. Dionne Jr.'s take, now featured on our homepage.

Were Democratic voters behind the Brat victory? Virginia does not require party registration, and the high turnout in what was supposed to be Cantor cakewalk has some wondering if there was some electoral chaos at work. Update: Maybe not, according to the Washington Post.

Cantor drew more financial support from the finance and securities sector than any other sector, the chief contributors being Blackstone Group, Scoggins Capital Management, and Goldman Sachs – something Brat seized on in addition to Cantor’s alleged laxity on keeping out the illegals.

From the same New York Times story this morning: Cantor’s “demise is mildly Shakespearean,” given how he “helped elevate Tea Party candidates in 2010 across the nation by giving them financial and political support,” and his religion might have played a role as well:

David Wasserman, a House political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said another, more local factor has to be acknowledged: Mr. Cantor, who dreamed of becoming the first Jewish speaker of the House, was culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented and more conservative.

“Part of this plays into his religion,” Mr. Wasserman said. “You can’t ignore the elephant in the room.”

Who will be Cantor’s replacement? The reliable Robert Costa, who actually foresaw the chance of a Brat win, suggests some possibilities and also writes on where the power might shift in the House. Also, immigration reform is really and truly dead. 

Cantor cannot register to run in the general election this fall, in which Brat will face Democrat Jack Trammell – also a professor at Randolph-Macon (!)—whose scholarly work includes a book on the Richmond slave trade

Democrats are, by some accounts, giddy; "moderate" Republicans like Rep. Peter King of New York are not. And if you want to learn more about Tea Party Catholics, read Charles M.A. Clark's review of Samuel Gregg's book by the same name, featured now on our homepage and in our current issue. 

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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