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June 13, 2014

Will "Dave Brat, accidental tea party leader," be a principled and vocal opponent of the federal drug war?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Politico article headlined "Dave Brat, accidental tea party leader." Here are a few passages from the lengthy piece that make me hopeful that Professor Brat shares the sentiments of many other modern Tea Party leaders that the big federal drug war and big government criminal justice systems:

He may be the new tea party hero, but Brat really isn’t a tea party guy. His writings show that he’s closer to Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand than tea party talking points. Indeed, he fits the ivory tower mold -- the kind of academic who makes small talk with his colleagues at the campus gym by chatting about how to create the perfect ethical system. He savors the role of an anti-politician, but this is not another Joe the Plumber. This is Dave the Professor....

His writings include plenty of tributes to free-market conservatism, and in one paper, he lays out Ayn Rand’s “case for liberty from the ground up.” But there are also some surprising departures — like one paper that suggests that states can prime their economies by investing in education and research. Another endorses the No Child Left Behind law and suggests mandatory teaching seminars so teachers don’t take black students less seriously than white students.

That background paints a different picture of Brat than one might expect from all the tea party support he won. As a candidate, Brat has talked about opposing “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, term limits for members of Congress, gun owners’ rights and returning power to the states through the 10th amendment. Brat’s hardline focus on opposing immigration reform has surprised some of his colleagues, who say he never talked about it that much on campus.

But even the way Brat talks about his solution to illegal immigration is straight from conservative theory: encourage free markets and private property rights around the world.

Students of Milton Friedman know well that he was not only an opponent of pot prohibition, but a vocal advocate of the legalization of all drugs. Here is a link to a video of Friedman discussing his views on this front, which are nicely summarized by this quote: "I'm in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal."

Long story short: if Dave Brat is as committed to free markets and as principled as the Politico piece suggests he is, he could very quickly become one of the most significant voices in the modern GOP advocating for significant reform of the modern big government federal criminal justice system.

Some older and recent posts on the "new politics" of sentencing reform:

June 13, 2014 at 11:34 AM | Permalink


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Much overlap inour views. The lawyer wants to loose thecriminal, the source of his make work job. The Supremacy wants to loose the public from the yoke of the fear of both crime and over reaching regulationand over criminalization of ordunarry harmless behavior. The propaganda says, for safety. The reality says, for rent seeking.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 14, 2014 11:00:19 AM

If the new breed here actually thought outside the "just say no" box and did things like the hopeful post suggests is possible (though his inability to talk about the issues when asked on election day didn't help my optimism), it would raise my respect for these people, even if overall, I am not a big fan of their politics.

There is some room for principled coalitions here. What about his colleague who is running against him? What are his positions on such issues?

Posted by: Joe | Jun 14, 2014 11:48:27 AM

It's going to be interesting. Reason is working hard to find Brat's core which is a bit illusive. The first element of the campaign that is shocking is the size of the campaign chest of Cantor and Brat. Maybe there is enough discontent to make campaign money irrelevant in extreme circumstances. It certainly seems so.

The fact that Freedom Works and Tea Party Patriots did not fund the Brat campaign says more about them than the candidate. Brat's message seemed to rest not only on immigration, but depended heavily an the public's disgust with the intertwine of big business and government. That message could resonate with democrats in the general election.

On the other hand, his statements about NSA and the fourth amendment will not bode well for either party if the general public agrees - and they may. Sometimes cooperation across party lines is where the pork is made and also where candidates find their campaign money. His main campaign thrust was money to the undeserving rich - which sounds very populist.

Well, enough blather, to the point about the drug war and marijuana, I don't know that he has addressed either, but from his articulated opinions about big intrusive government, and freedom from it - ending the war on drugs would seem to follow quite naturally.

Posted by: beth | Jun 14, 2014 12:24:51 PM

A bit more.

The anti-immigration reform position is usual red meat stuff and counterproductive in true criminal justice reform. The "returning power to the states through the 10th amendment" is also in many cases going to be support for restrictive policies, given the nature of state criminal laws in many places.

His citing certain people does not necessarily mean he will consistently accept all their positions. Also, if he supports 'free markets,' I guess he supports gay rights, abortion rights etc. It will be refreshing to get a true free market sort there.

One can remain hopeful, I guess, especially if it's likely we will have him for at least two years.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 14, 2014 1:05:26 PM

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