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.
Cantor’s defeat might return some semblance of accountability. But it’s not all happy times. Cantor is Jewish, and that fact had nothing to do with his defeat, but the dishonest left doesn’t care. They will use Cantor’s defeat to generate a vicious smear. Meanwhile, with a sure anti-Semitic smear against the right brewing, South Carolina has decided to send Sen. Tim Scott back to the Senate. Ninety percent of white voters in the GOP primary voted for the conservative Republican, who is black and who was appointed to his seat by a conservative Republican of Indian heritage, Gov. Nikki Haley. This ought to disrupt the left’s racist narrative, but it won’t. Facts seldom get in their way.
And Sen. Lindsey Graham, the poster boy for the Senate’s bad immigration bill, won his primary easily. It helped that he sensed the threat far earlier than Cantor did, and it helped even more that he faced a cloud of opponents instead of just one. It also helped that he had a statewide primary, and not a narrow, conservative congressional district to contend with. It helped him that none of his opponents turned out to be as good as Dave Brat.
The big question lurking behind all this now is: what does Barack Obama do? He always sees every vote as somehow validating his wishes, or at least as a reason to just push harder. He did not even tack to the center after the 2010 shellacking. I suspect that he will impose as much of “comprehensive immigration reform” as he possibly can, this summer, whenever he senses that it will politically benefit him the most, and will smear Republicans for not being able to impose the rest. So immigration reform as currently devised is not killed by Brat’s win. The rule of law might be, if Obama has his way.
Cantor did a few things in the closing weeks of the primary that may have undone him. He smeared Brat as a “liberal college professor,” which was a lie, and may have brought more than a few Democrats out to vote for Brat in the open primary. He and his aides talked down to the voters while Brat explained his ideas clearly, adult to adult. People are tired of politicians acting like a ruling class. More astute Americans realize that most politicians are vain hacks. Just give us an alternative and we’re happy to give you the boot.
A bottom line, if there is one: Money did not win the VA-07 race. Name recognition did not win it. Status and power did not win it. The people just decided that they had had enough, and they went out and won it themselves. Good.
With all eyes on the mid-terms, PJ Media is launching The Grid. The Grid will be your one-stop shop to find out all the latest on these crucial elections, along with other news in and beyond politics.