After 24 years and 12 congressional terms, Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s dreams of being speaker of the House exploded Tuesday in a matter of hours in a stunning defeat by political novice Dave Brat.
Riding a wave of anti-amnesty sentiment, the Randolph-Macon economics professor managed to win even in Richmond neighborhoods historically friendly to Cantor. He was clearly helped by recent reports of massive numbers of illegal aliens, including children, crossing our Southern border as well as a relatively puny turnout. Nevertheless, it was a huge and convincing win for Brat.
As Brit Hume noted on Fox, the conventional wisdom immediately permeating Washington was that this election was bad news for Republican prospects in 2016. At this point few if any Republicans will go near immigration reform as an issue, supposedly alienating the Hispanic vote beyond repair. Meanwhile, Democrats will have a field day branding Republicans as Tea Party crazies. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was already at it minutes after the Brat victory. Talk about projection!
But is this primary such a disaster? I am not so sure — and I was the one defending Cantor not long ago in these pages. To put it mildly, politics as usual has obviously been failing. That of course means Obama and the rest of the tawdry “progressive” crew but it also inevitably means his loyal (actually too loyal) opposition. The old pas de deux must go. Now maybe it will — or more of it anyway.
Listening to Brat being interviewed by Sean Hannity after the primary, I was encouraged. The professor seemed a bright man, refreshingly direct and honest, addressing ideas and issues in a, well, professorial manner rarely heard in politics these days. It almost made me sad he was leaving academia, such men having become as extinct in universities as they are in politics.
He was also free of rancor toward Cantor, whom he judged a good man in a way that appeared authentic. This impressed me even more. Did we have an actual citizen politician here — and, incredibly, an intelligent one? Skeptical old me began to think of Frank Capra movies. Brat even had the diffident, bespectacled look of Jimmy Stewart.
Nah, it couldn’t be, I thought. There are no more Mr. Smiths. As if on cue a report from the Washington Post rocketed across the lower-third of the screen: “Brat will never have power of Cantor” or words to that effect.
Again, I am not so sure. America — some of it anyway — is desperate for new leadership. The people are restless — and fed up. They don’t always know what they are looking for but they are looking for something. With men like Brat, that something is the U.S. Constitution. They could do worse.
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