Brat Beats Cantor: The Empire Strikes Out

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After Tuesday’s Congressional primary in Virginia’s 7th District, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, heir apparent to Speaker John Boehner’s Republican House throne, is available for speaking engagements, corporate events and children’s birthday parties. In fact, now that Cantor has been defeated by previously unheralded conservative economist Dave Brat, it looks like the Republican old guard’s loss will be some cake-eating K Street lobbying firm’s gain.

Cantor’s defeat has sent the appropriate shockwaves through the political establishment. A senior member of the Republican Party, one of the self-described “young guns” and a man who presumably should have been less than halfway into a career inside the Beltway, is out on the street. Republicans who overestimated the quality of protection afforded by big-money donors while underestimating the power of individual voters to see past the dollar signs are quaking in their wingtips. Political consultants’ phones are exploding as terrified multi-term lawmakers realized they didn’t know how to speak “middle-class.” Manicured fingernails are being chewed down the nubs as candidates who thought their seats were locked down realize they’re going to have to venture out of their Washingtonian luxury and actually visit their districts — and not just to play golf, cut a few ribbons and charm a few grandmothers out of their Social Security checks.

But the real cowering ought to be taking place across the aisle — and not just because House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s latest Botox treatment made her look like a blowfish in anaphylactic shock. Brat just thumped Cantor, largely as a result of Cantor’s refusal to hold to conservative principles. And the Democrats, whose own grip on Senate power is slipping as fast as Majority Leader Harry Reid’s tenuous grasp on sanity, ought to be quivering like frightened schoolgirls. Brat won an intrasquad scrimmage. His victory doesn’t open the door for the Democrats, whose own 7th District candidates included a guy named Mike Dickinson who makes the Taliban look like NARAL. Instead, it sounds an alarm that the conservatives, whose recent defeats were cheered by Democrats as a sign that conservatism was dying, are actually alive and kicking — hard.

The voters who backed Cantor fervently enough to help rocket him up the Congressional ladder just pink-slipped him for failing to hold the line on immigration. As President Barack Obama stockpiles desperate illegal aliens in Arizona like human livestock, Cantor failed to stand up for both the law and for the basic human dignity Obama’s obvious and cravenly voter-recruitment drive has sacrificed in the name of crass electioneering. Anyone with a soul finds the images from Obama’s illegal Arizona concentration camps repellent. Cantor’s tacit support of immigration amnesty told voters that such images would become the norm.

The voters who backed Cantor watched as Obama defrauded the Nation with his dead-in-the-starting-gate donkey Obamacare, and they watched as Cantor backed off repeal. The voters who watched as Obama’s economic pogroms put a record 92 million people out of work also watched as Cantor failed to staunch the bleeding. Even as Obama and his accomplices brazenly lied about everything from political use of the Internal Revenue Service to political use of a known deserter, Cantor and the GOP establishment did little more than bleat weakly in protest.

Yet the voters in Virginia’s 7th didn’t react to Cantor’s political impotence by lurching to the left. Instead, they pulled hard to starboard. It stands to reason that the bulk of the voters in Virginia’s 7th, while far from the most rock-ribbed in America, are conservative enough to have given Cantor room to move up. And we’re talking about Virginia’s 7th, not Texas’s 13th.

Brat’s victory might well be a fluke. Not long ago, a series of establishment victories like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s near-walkover in Kentucky had pundits from The New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle penning obituaries for conservatism. Yet with Obama’s approval ratings hovering between “ouch” and “do you smell something?” the same people who sent Cantor to Washington just benched him in favor of an even more conservative player. If the GOP establishment — not to mention the Democratic ruling elite — is banking on the idea of Brat representing a fluke, then it’s in bigger trouble than I thought.

–Ben Crystal

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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