As anyone who has paid the least bit of attention the last couple days knows that a primary election was held in the 7th Congressional District of Virginia for Eric Cantor’s seat, and he lost big time to a previously unknown local college professor named Dave Brat. How did this happen, and what does it mean for the future of conservatism?
A little background is in order. Eric Cantor has served in this position for 13 years, and has risen to become the Majority Leader in the House. For Cantor, this was a good and a bad thing. Being a Senator or Congressman means having the difficult job of pleasing everyone in your district in order to continue serving as their Congressman. The easiest way to do this is to basically lie low and to stay out of the spotlight. When you are Majority Leader of a party that is supposedly opposed to the socialist manipulations of the Obama administration, that is a pretty difficult thing to do.
The 7th district is a very conservative district, and they have not sent a democrat to Congress since John Marsh finished 4 terms in 1971. He was a democrat, but he also served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Gerald Ford and Secretary of the Army for Ronald Regan. Clearly not a 21st Century Democrat. Eric Cantor came under scrutiny by the Tea Party in his district, and was found wanting. Some of this was due to his support for “Dream Act”-type amnesty, which Brat made a campaign issue – clearly his fault. Some of it, however, was due to the failure of the Republicans in Congress to block Obama’s socialist initiatives, notably Obamacare, which was not necessarily Cantor’s fault personally.
Additionally, Cantor seemed more and more imperious; unwilling to meet with his constituency in town hall meetings, to debate his opponent, or to explain convincingly why he was championing the “rights” of people who are here illegally. Another factor was the extreme frustration of conservatives all over the state at the recent gubernatorial elections which brought in Obama sycophant and longtime democrat hack Terry McAuliffe and a team of radically liberal democrats to undo all the conservative good that the previous Republican administration had done for the state. Undoubtedly Cantor was seen, at least by the Tea Party, as part of the problem and not part of the solution.
So, conservatives are elated in their victory, removing what they considered a RINO from a position of power and substituting a man who promises to be much more in line with their conservative values.
But wait; there’s more.
The elation may be premature. Looking at the mechanics of the election, one wonders where the democrats were during this campaign. Early on the democrats put forward a buffoon whose selling point was that he owned some “clubs” of ill repute and worked for Larry Flynt, Mr. “Hustler” magazine, the man who made a fortune by selling porn. Greta Van Susteren destroyed him in an interview on FOX, and he dropped out of the race. This gave the Tea Party license, they thought, to attack Cantor, because whoever won the primary would become the next Congressman.
Unfortunately, they were mistaken. Virginia law allows the parties to put forward a candidate until 5:00 PM on the day of the election. The democrats waited until around 4:30, after the Tea Party folks had all gone to the polls and voted, and announce their candidate. Suddenly his web site sprung up, with his plans to win the election in November.
The democrats have wanted Cantor’s seat forever, but have always put forth a half-hearted fight, knowing he was undefeatable. His district loved him. This is no longer the case with Brat. His district doesn’t even know him. The Tea Party loves him, but what about the rest of the voters?
Did the democrats know this? Did they purposely put forth a sacrificial lamb, knowing if Cantor won the primary that they hadn’t hurt any viable candidate’s reputation, but holding back their real candidate in case Cantor lost? Will they bring in tons of out of state money and operatives like they did in the recent gubernatorial campaign? Will they destroy Brat’s character and tell the voters that he is “too extreme for Virginia”, as they did with Cuccinelli?
We will see what happens between now and November. I sincerely hope that the Tea Party elation is justified, and that the Tea Party has not become a circular firing squad, as many in the Republican establishment maintain. It was not, unfortunately, a democrat who was defeated. It was a Republican with an overall good record, who was incidentally supported by the NRA and many conservative organizations. Brat was not elected; he is only now able to run in the fall, when he will face the full power of the democrat party. The future of the 7th District seat is by no means certain.