While following the social media reaction to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary defeat Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone outside of the tea party was celebrating this bizarre turn of events. By any measure, David Brat’s victory was really, really bad news for just about everyone, especially and specifically Normals in both parties. I hate to be Debbie Downer, but here’s why Cantor’s loss is everyone’s loss.
1) David Brat is a hardcore, extreme-right-wing John Calvin-admiring Christian Reconstructionist, which, among other things, endorses theocratic government. And we totally need more of those people voting on laws that impact the entire nation.
2) Brat is an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. He once co-published a paper titled, “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.” Yep, another tea party libertarian on his way to enrolling in a government-run healthcare plan while collecting a government paycheck drawn from redistributed tax revenue.
3) Even though the GOP would do well to jettison the crazies, Brat’s surprise victory will force the party further to its right, making it even more unwilling to bargain with the Democrats or even moderate Republicans. It doesn’t seem possible the GOP could be less amenable to compromise, but any remaining wiggle room will be dashed away as more tea party candidates like Brat are sworn in.
4) Cantor has been in lockstep against the White House every step of the way, having voted with his party 95 percent of the time, outpacing the most radical members of the caucus, such as Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA). And yet Cantor wasn’t hardline enough for his district.
5) The Republicans have a serious polling problem. Maybe this is the only ray of sunshine for the Democrats. Ever since the GOP was totally flummoxed by polling in 2012, it clearly hasn’t ironed out its math skills two years later. Going into Tuesday’s primary, one poll showed Cantor up by 13 points, while an internal Cantor poll showed the incumbent leading by 34 points. You could say Brat [cough] unskewed the polls. By the way, Mitt Romney won in the district by 15 points. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) won by seven points. President Bush won the district in both 2000 and 2004 by 23 points.
6) Save for a major Brat gaffe along the lines of George Allen’s “makaka” remark or a Todd Akin-ish rape explanation, the Democratic nominee, Jack Trammell, probably won’t win. The last Democratic congressman from the 7th left office in 1971. Never say never, but Trammell would have to miraculously overcome 43 years of Republican control.
7) In order to not lose by 20+ points, Trammell will have to run away from the president, while positioning himself as a conservative Democrat. If you’re a progressive, don’t expect to fall in love.
8) Given how Trammell’s odds are grim, the DCCC will likely bail out and spend its money in winnable districts. Regardless of how Trammell runs, he won’t be able to compete financially.
9) Again, Brat is a fringe tea party radical, and he’s probably going to win. I’m mentioning this again because it’s a big deal. His victory emboldens the tea party and will help energize it in other primaries.
The Republican Party establishment has got to be wondering how the hell it came to this. But the party only has itself to blame for allowing its far-right flank to wag the dog. Worse yet, this is very simply bad news for the discourse. Any notion of Democrats and Republicans actually engaging in a reasonable, rational debate died a little more last night, with theocratic, climate crisis-denying, impeachment fetishists gaining ground. Sure, Cantor’s voting record showed that he wasn’t particularly willing to break ranks, but at least he wasn’t apeshit crazy in the process. Sadly, the Crazy Caucus will probably gain a new member next January.