Cantor’s Defeat, The GOP Establishment, and What It Means

(This was originally written for Ricochete.com on the evening of 11 June 2014.  I am the author.)

Last night, as I watched another episode of “House of Cards” on Netflix with my wonderful wife Meg, my phone buzzed with the headline from my Drudge Report app saying that Eric Cantor, Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, lost his primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.  Cantor’s opponent was an economics professor named David Brat from a little known liberal arts college in Virginia, and Brat beat him by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent.  Cantor’s time in Washington DC and his climb up the GOP hierarchy came to an end.  The GOP Establishment is now in shambles and there can be little doubt that they are not very happy about this.

The narrative to this is that Prof. Brat’s good fortune came about because Cantor’s perceived support for immigration bills that are considered amnesty was too much for the GOP voters in Tuesday’s primary.  Just every talking head on the Right has said as much.  (George Will just said so on “Special Report” as I typed this.)  But this is the wrong way to look at this.  This is the wrong narrative, and pushing this only serves the purposes of the GOP Establishment.

Prof. Brat’s critique of Cantor was broad in terms of policy and ideological differences, of which immigration was only a part.  Brat has, over the past 24 hours, stated that the immigration talk in DC, if implemented, would have a detrimental effect on the economy and on the concept of the rule of law.  Brat’s desire to become a member of the US House seems to come from a view that takes the troubles of the US in their totality, not from a single issue.  So why push this single issue narrative?  This single issue narrative gives the GOP Establishment the opportunity to obfuscate the actual issue that the average GOP voter has with them and makes the voters easier to brush off as cranks.

It is my assumption that the GOP Establishment–Boehner, McConnell, et. al.–really do not like the presence of Tea Party types in elected office in Washington.  They do not mind them holding a representative position in some state legislature or in some party chairmanship of some sparsely populated county, but they do not want the ridicule from the Left for having to associate with them in DC.  They do not want the same end result that folks like Ted Cruz or Mike Lee or, now, Prof. David Brat do, mainly a limited government with power diffused amongst the states and the people.  The GOP Establishment has channeled their conservatism not toward downsizing government but to thinking that they can run government better than the Left.

Now many will ask for proof to quantify this statement.  Well allow for me to just give you a list of things that have happened since the great GOP take over of Congress in 1994:  Medicare Part D (2002), the first farm bill during George W. Bush’s first term (2002), No Child Left Behind (2002), creation of the Department of Homeland Security (2004), TARP and the auto bailouts (2008, yes they started with Bush), refusal to do something substantive to cripple Obamacare (2010 to present), announcing that Obamacare should be reformed and not repealed (2014), and a persistent desire to import an underclass of immigrants here illegally who are going to vote Democrat by a rate of 3:1 (do not believe me?  Read this by Heather MacDonald).  The list could go on if the time permitted for deeper research.

The desire to vote Republicans like Cantor out is because the voters in these districts and states do not want “smarter” means of controlling the behemoth government.  They want that behemoth government severely cut down to size.  Prof. Brat’s victory was a direct result of this sentiment.