A simply stunning outcome last night in Virginia. A house majority leader loses in his party’s primary. Something that has never happened in the history of our country. I personally thought that Cantor didn’t take the race seriously enough but would still win out in the end. I was wrong. He lost by more than ten points.
But I will say that people who don’t understand the ins and outs of Virginia politics are getting some things wrong. On the national stage they are talking about how Brat won on the amnesty issue. There may be some of that in there, but it certainly wasn’t the entire reason. Cantor’s view on immigration is exactly like Lindsay Graham’s and he won easily.
In Virginia there is no party registration. As such whenever there is a primary anyone can vote. It is very easy for people in the other party to show up at the polls and place a vote for a candidate that is most likely to lose to their candidate of choice. As such, there is great deal of back and forth about conventions vs. primaries within the local political debate. Cantor firmly falls on the primary side of the debate. An issue that I agree with him on. I personally feel that primaries are the most inclusive and that conventions put some voters into the position of not getting their voices heard. But even that isn’t all of the story. There is a parliamentary rule in Virginia called slating. In slating when you get 50% of your district to agree to use this rule only a certain amount of people are allowed to vote in a convention or committee meeting. So if you don’t happen to fall into the chosen few, even if you are willing to travel the convention you can’t vote.
Many in Virginia have very strong feelings about slating. Most of which are highly negative. I personally believe that this is the rule and those who know the rules of the game best win. So I am not going to put people who like this practice down. They are following the rules of the game. If you don’t like the rules, get yourself into position within the local committee to change them. Complaining and calling others cheaters doesn’t solve anything. My main point here is that Cantor and his camp really upset many people by using these rules. At least that is the impression that many have. Heaven knows that, especially in politics, perception is reality.
David Brat had no money. He spent somewhere around $200,000 total on his campaign, whereas Cantor spent more than that on one dinner for his supporters. But what he did have was very dedicated volunteers that literally knocked on every door in that district that was marked as a republican. Again, there is no party registration in the state, but voting habits get you listed as a D or an R. Brat also did get some much needed help from two conservative radio talk show hosts. Mark Levin, who lives in Virginia, and Laura Ingraham, who lives in D.C. Both of them had him on their show and Ingraham did at least one rally with him. Both have large audiences and it seems it had at least a little bit of an effect.
There also was the issue that many in his district felt that he didn’t listen to them. That he was no longer representing them, but looking towards being the Speaker of the House when Boehner decides to step down. He was next in line. I have heard many in his district say that they didn’t get return calls or letters when they would contact his office. They felt he lost touch with what his job was supposed to be; representing them not worrying about consolidating his own power. He rarely spent time in his own district. Another big difference between he and Lindsay Graham. Graham is very well known for being excellent on being there to listen to his voters. His staff is actually larger in his state than in D.C..
For those in the media that are saying he (Brat) is some sort of right winged lunatic it is going to be difficult to get that to stick. Cantor labeled him as the liberal in the race. Cantor campaigned on being the true conservative. His policies are simply basic republican fare. He campaigned on giving power back to the states, the amnesty issue and the rule of law, reducing our national debt, and reigning in out of control government. There is nothing extreme about those views. That is what the GOP is supposed to be for.
Another very interesting part of this story is how Brat campaigned. He actually stood up and talked policies instead of platitudes. He never made personal attacks on Cantor. Many in the media called him a joke based on this alone.
I think that Brat has shown that people are hungry to be talked to like adults. They can understand policy issues and they aren’t all that interested in the personal ugly side of politics. That of course isn’t going to go away anytime soon because they do work. But a small shift is happening.
I had no dog in this fight. I see both sides of Cantor staying and Cantor going. Politics is much like a marriage; a series of compromises. But when those compromises almost always walk away from the basic tenets of what the party is supposed to stand for, it may be time for a change in leadership. Cantor went after the tea party quite publicly. While no national Tea Party “group” gave Brat the time of day, the local activists took notice and put the work in to show him that they are still there and are expecting results.
The district is pretty conservative and I personally find it a good thing that dems are going to pour money into that district. It is less they can use on other races. It isn’t impossible for a dem to win in that district, but it seems this is lining up to be a republican wave year much like 2010 and it isn’t likely that dems can take advantage of Cantor’s demise.