There’s analysis, and there’s hack ‘n’ slash. When blindsided by the come-from-behind election of David Brat over Virginia’s longtime congressman Eric Cantor, many mainstream media fell back on the latter. Often with dull, rusty blades.
Brat is a (gasp) fiscal conservative, some pundits said. He’s an (gasp #2) evangelical, said others. And a Calvinist. And a Catholic. And still others insinuated that he’s a closet anti-Semite, or his supporters are, or something.
Let’s take the last first. In the otherwise distinguished Wall Street Journal, Reid Epstein seizes on something that Brat wrote three years ago:
David Brat, the Virginia Republican who shocked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) 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.
Whoa. Linking the Holocaust with the defeat of a Jew. What sinister intent can we draw from that? Well, as Epstein himself says, Brat was dissecting Nietzsche’s idea of the “weak modern Christian democratic man,” and warned believers not to become passive in the face of massive evil:
Hitler came along, and he did not meet with unified resistance. I have the sinking feeling that it could all happen again, quite easily. The church should rise up higher than Nietzsche could see and prove him wrong. We should love our neighbor so much that we actually believe in right and wrong, and do something about it.
So Epstein reports Brat’s horror at Nazism, yet he still tries somehow to tie Brat with some kind of Holocaust thinking. This amounts to a flailing attack on a level with medieval battle-ax fighting.
The New York Times tried to have it both ways in its own post-game analysis. It confronted a question by TheWeek.com on whether Cantor lost because of his Jewishness. The Times answer was “no” — a good call for someone who has held public office in Virginia for more than two decades.
But then the writer tries to show that Brat’s familiarity with Christian talk played better with Virginia voters than did Cantor’s more general moral language, mustering a couple of political “analysts” to agree with her on that. Among them was David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report: