I’ll just get this out of the way: I didn’t see Eric Cantor’s defeat coming any more or less than anyone else did. It’s a bolt from the blue. I doubt that even Dave Brat saw it coming.
The man who became the first challenger to oust a sitting House majority leader since the position was invented in 1899 just spent a few minutes on Fox, talking with Sean Hannity. Brat sounded surprised, elated, and very happy. He also sounded like a principled conservative. In fact, he sounded fantastic. He kept citing Ronald Reagan, but not in that robotic way that some candidates use when they really don’t have ideas of their own. Brat sounds like he’s full of ideas and will be an interesting addition to the House. His supporters have reasons to be proud of themselves.
Brat is certainly a challenger, a massive underdog like Rocky, but I’m not sure that it’s accurate to say that he’s a Tea Party guy, exactly. The big national Tea Party groups didn’t support him. Hardly anyone did. Brat spent $206,000 on the race, against Cantor’s $5.4 million. Outspent, outgunned, and dismissed — by me, certainly — he won. Amazing. People power can actually make a difference in this country. This scares Washington. Good. Washington should never get as comfortable as it has been these past few decades.
Let’s just lay this out. Brat’s win changes some things, but not everything. The House GOP leadership will be in disarray for a while. Speaker John Boehner is probably re-thinking that whole bit about teasing conservatives on immigration reform. He’ll be looking for a new #2. He may find himself weakened in the collateral damage from the detonation of Cantor HQ. The House GOP rank and file may be looking for a new speaker.
Eric Cantor is more conservative than not. He has long been strong on national defense and a true friend of Israel. But he apparently took his political career for granted and thought he could work with the likes of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, liberal Democrat, against the wishes and needs of his own voters on immigration. Whoops.
Jeb Bush has some things to ponder. He looks like he’s running for the 2016 nomination on a GOP platform of, essentially, running against what the base of the GOP wants. Good luck with that. There’s anger out here. He’ll find out how much, and whether it extends beyond VA-07, if he keeps that act up.
The anger is real. Americans increasingly see Washington as a hostile occupying force. There are those in that town who align with the president, and those who pretend that they don’t, but they really do. That’s the perception that’s building out here. Most Americans don’t think the country is strong or going in the right direction. We’re seeing our position in the world erode as we’re seeing our own economic and moral condition deteriorate. It looks like our government is selling us out much of the time.