My Advice to Jack Trammell

Dave BratDave Brat is the guy who beat Eric Cantor yesterday in the Virginia District 7 House primary election. Afterwards, he was talking to Chuck Todd who asked him about a raise in the minimum wage. Brat then proceeded to waffle and do the usual libertarian move of obfuscating. Todd asked, “Where are you on the minimum wage? Do you believe in it, and would you raise it?” Brat did very briefly answer the first part of the question, “Minimum wage, no, I’m a free market guy.” But then he started talking about how Obamacare is destroying the economy. Of course, he totally distorted the law saying, “[T]hrow Obamacare on top of that, the work hours is 30 hours a week. You can only hire 50 people.” This is all right-wing talking point: companies are laying off people and cutting back their hours so they aren’t covered by Obamacare. As Alan Barber at the always trustworthy Center for Economic and Policy Research has noted, Everything You’ve Heard About Obamacare Being a Job-Killer Is Wrong.

But then it got worse. Brat went on to claim that the minimum wage could only be raised if productivity went up:

So you can’t make up wage rates. Right? I would love for everyone in sub-Saharan Africa, for example—children of God—to make $100 an hour. I would love to just assert that that would be the case. But you can’t assert that unless you raise their productivity, and then the wage follows.

But Brat, the chair of an economics department, must know that the American economy (we can leave aside sub-Saharan Africa for now, given that it is just word salad from Brat) was doing quite well in 1968. If the minimum wage that we had then had gone up at the rate of productivity growth, it would have been $16.54 in 2012. That’s 225% of the $7.25 rate that it actual was and still is. So in as much as Brat is making any sense at all, he is making an argument in favor of a higher minimum wage.

I’m sure, however, that Brat was telling the truth when he first blurted out that he was for no minimum wage at all. He fancies himself a libertarian. But that’s not an opinion that even very many in the Republican base believe. So he will have to massage that position. That’s why he also said, “I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one.” Because despite the fact that he claims to be authentic, he is not inclined to say what he really thinks. Just another politician. Fine. Who cares?

Jack TrammellI think Democrat Jack Trammell, who will face Brat in the general election, ought to care very much. Since Brat considers himself a libertarian and he’s an academic, I’m sure he’s written on the issue of the minimum wage many times. It is one of the favorite issues for libertarians. There’s a reason for that: it is an issue of freedom. If you are so inclined, you can see it as simply the government stopping people from entering into voluntary contracts. Now I can dismantle that argument, but that is the theory. If I were working for Trammell, I’d be reading everything that Brat ever wrote so that the campaign could point out what a hypocrite Brat is.

And it isn’t just the minimum wage. The issue that seems to have won Brat the election was his anti-immigrant stance. Again: this is not what libertarians believe. Libertarians believe in open borders. I’m sure a little reading of Brat will find that he’s written some things that are exactly contrary to what he’s been saying recently. And I’ll bet this is just the tip of the ice berg. Libertarians fancy themselves very philosophically consistent and that often leads them to very unpopular places—especially when it comes to Republican voters.

I still think it is unlikely that Jack Trammell can beat Brat. District 7 is supposedly almost 60% Republican. But Trammell can certainly trammel (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) Brat’s ideological freedom during this campaign. He can make him squirm. And if things go right, District 7 could go Democratic in 2015.

Jack Trammell 2014!


Here is Jack Trammell’s entire campaign website:

I do hope the Democratic Party provides him some money for this race. It has real promise. I may even pony up ten bucks myself—which is about the limit of my resources.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “My Advice to Jack Trammell

  1. Who are we talking to? Certainly not the Republican base, the dead enders who are about 27% of the American population. They are, to appropriate Driftglass, a complete deadweight loss to humanity. To Independents? Republicans who are ashamed of the brand, all. To nominal, but not ideologically hardcore Republicans? Take my sister, for example. She and I are very close. In the Reagan years I memorized all the WSJ editorial page agitprop Mom dished out, and filled it and indexed it for easy deployment. That was my way of being the good son. She was never particularly interested. Reagan good. Commies bad. I am not meaning to slight her intelligence, as that would be inaccurate. It wasn’t a priority for her. So after George W Bush broke conservatism I did a bottom up review of what other lies I had believed (all of them). Which leads me, eventually, here. Writing this. Not my sister. I wrote to her on Facebook a year ago (she lives two miles away, but I often prefer to write) "Why are you a Republican? You are a school teacher, and your husband a union worker. Both things the Republican party proclaims it’s contempt for loudly and often. You are not rich, and you are not going to be. You are not, to my knowledge a religious fundamentalist. What do they offer you besides more wars for our children to die in. Well, not ours, exactly. But those growing up in places where NAFTA has destroyed the local economy?"
    She never responded. Probably never read it. But I doubt it would have reached her. I know others like her. Good friends. Their ideology is wired to a bomb. They can’t talk about it. They won’t confront it. I don’t seize up when confronted about my ideology. You can’t function as liberal in this society without memorizing why you are not a monster.
    So, certainly, document the atrocities. But who is listening?

  2. @Lawrence – If I’m following your argument, you are saying that it won’t matter what Brat really believes, because the Republicans will just vote for him almost out of habit. I think there are two issues here.

    1. Not all Republican voters are the same. So if Brat is painted as a hardcore ideologue and Trammell comes off as just a practical centrists, there is a decent chunk of the Republican electorate that could vote for him. Perhaps even more important, there are a lot of Republicans who wouldn’t even show up to vote.

    2. A big deal to the Tea Party folks is that they believe they are authentic. So he either has to go for authenticity for the Tea Party and turn off the marginal voters. Or he has to admit he’s a hypocrite to the Tea Party base. Raising the minimum wage is fairly popular with the Republicans. Getting rid of it altogether is only popular among the true believer Tea Party Fox New informed base.

    Regardless, the best that Trammell could hope for would be a very close race. The district is stacked against him. But I grew up in an overwhelmingly Democratic area, and we had a Republican Representative for almost two decades. It can happen.

    Regardless, Trammell has to do something, his campaign will go no where if he just runs a "clean" campaign about all that he will do for the district. If the district cared about that, the Republicans would have nominated Cantor, whose power could have done them a lot of good.

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