David Brat: Quartermaster for the Republican Foot-Shooting Brigade

The big news this evening is that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary to Tea Party challenger David Brat. Needless to say, this is an absolutely shocking development.

Part of the reason for the loss appears to have to do with the fact that Cantor’s responsibilities as House majority leader meant that he did not have enough time or resources to ensure that his own district continued to like him. Congressional leaders are exceedingly powerful people with national responsibilities, but obviously, one of the dangers of being a congressional leader with national responsibilities is that one may end up losing touch with one’s leadership. That appears to have happened to Cantor. Additionally, Cantor may have inadvertently given Brat some publicity by slamming Brat in negative advertisements. Perhaps it would have done Cantor more good to have ignored Brat from the outset.

But there may have been policy reasons behind Cantor’s loss, and this is where everyone concerned about the Republican party’s ability to reach out to diverse constituencies had better grab the nearest sick bag. Because the following will make you ill:

“This is an earthquake,” said former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber, a friend of Cantor’s. “No one thought he’d lose.” But Brat, tapping into conservative anger over Cantor’s role in supporting efforts to reform federal immigration laws, found a way to combat Cantor’s significant financial edge.

“Eric Cantor’s loss tonight is an apocalyptic moment for the GOP establishment,” said L. Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica, a conservative group that targeted Cantor throughout the primary. “The grassroots is in revolt and marching.”

[. . .]

Brat, an economics professor, was not considered a major threat until Tuesday night, simply failing to show up to D.C. meetings with powerful conservative agitators last month, citing upcoming finals. He only had $40,000 in the bank at the end of March, according to first quarter filings. Cantor had $2 million.

But there were early signs of trouble. Brat exposed discontent with Cantor in the solidly Republican, suburban Richmond 7th Congressional District by attacking the lawmaker on his votes to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, as well as his support for some immigration reforms. At a May meeting of Republican activists in the district, Cantor was booed, and an ally he campaigned for was ousted as the local party chairman in favor of a tea party favorite.

So, to sum up, Cantor may have lost because he realized that the Tea Party position on raising the debt ceiling and the government shutdown was bad policy and bad politics, and because he may have wanted to try to reform an absolutely insane immigration system–an effort that might have helped Republicans appeal to different constituencies and adapt to the country’s changing demographics.

And I am supposed to be pleased with this development?

Stephen Bainbridge has an appropriate reply to this latest one-bullet-for-every-toe-and-two-bullets-for-each-big-toe moment for the GOP. And like him, I am with Russell Kirk in my disdain for the New Populism. It promotes bad policies and it severely hampers the ability of Republicans to win general elections. No Republican who cares about the long term interests of the party should be happy with the current state of affairs, and far too many Republicans will learn that lesson far too late. If anyone wondered what it would be like if the GOP were seized by its own version of McGovernites, wonder no more.

Comments

  1. Ya know Pejman, maybe you ought to start a movement to just disenfranchise all the voters you don’t like. Your disdain for ordinary people is really on a level no different from that of many progressive bloggers.This is one area where you could forge common ground with the Rachel Maddows of the world — think of the juggernaut you could create!

    • I don’t disdain “ordinary people.” I disdain the New Populism. I even wrote as much in the blog post. Please argue with what I wrote, rather than attributing straw man positions to me. Many thanks.

  2. As conservatives, we’ve been asked for too long to choose between the Democrat and the Democrat Lite (In the form of a nominee who chooses to put an ‘R’ after their name – See Crist, Murkowski, etc. etc).

    I, for one, am hesitantly embracing the ‘New Populism’. Yes, we’ve had to suffer through some awful candidates. However, could it be that we’ve been so conditioned to see the polished, almost un-human-ness of a typical candidate that we can’t see the value in the ‘citizen politician’ anymore – warts and all?

    Let us not forget that the Democrat party is on the verge of a civil war – the moderate Dems v. the extreme Lefties.

    As Obama is so fond of doing, he presents the liberal world view as an inevitable progression. He takes the fight out of us by taking the heart out of our hope for what we believe to be the good and right path for our country.

    But he is wrong about this. The march to permanent Leftism is not inevitable and I believe we’ll see the Ds tear themselves apart as we approach 2016.

    I say all this because the approach I read in your post, Pejman, seems to imply (to me at least) that we (as Rs) are facing a well-run and powerful opponent. I don’t see it that way. The Ds are terrible at running anything (as the past 6 years have proven brilliantly). This gives us the opportunity to flesh out our own future and makes it less-than-inevitable that we’ll have to be happy as the permanent minority.

    Our current leadership has failed us. Our current crop of representatives and senators almost always falls short by folding on important legislation or by simply standing by while others (including the President) behave in manners that do not benefit the best interests of America.

    After the 2012 election and our stunning loss, many of my stripe could be heard to say: “Let It Burn”. I can fully understand this sentiment, however I have higher hopes for the collective conscious of our citizenry. I believe we’ll turn this ship around.

    I am encouraged and my hope for America is bolstered when I hear or read another ‘underdog wins’ story – particularly when their mantra is constitutional conservatism (which is how I read Brat). Brats win goes in that column for me.

    Warm regards, Pejman. I’ve been really enjoying your writing.

    Jonathan Soss

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