Eric Cantor, We Hardly Knew Ye
Who knew the midterms could be as riveting as Game of Thrones? And yes, I do think Game of Thrones is an appropriate metaphor for any situation.
In the kind of shocking twist that fans of the HBO show are accustomed to, heir apparent and architect of obstruction Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his primary last night by 11 percentage points, becoming the first House Majority Leader to fall in a primary since the founding of the Republic. “Cantor loss throws Congress into disarray,” cries The Washington Post, as if Congress has been in anything but disarray for the past million years.
The political fall of the guy considered next-in-line for Speaker will certainly have reverberations for congressional races across the country. However, reports of a Tea Party wave are wildly exaggerated. Cantor’s perceived squishiness on immigration reform and attempts to muzzle the hardliners he helped create certainly did him no favors. But Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) won his primary, and he was one of the people who pushed immigration reform through the Senate. What did Cantor in was a delicious gumbo of low turnout, extreme dissatisfaction with the House Republican leadership, and good old-fashioned hubris. Mmmmm the schadenfreude.
And who is the giant slayer that felled this mighty pillar of the Establishment? Mild-mannered and unassuming college professor David Brat, whose own views make Cantor’s look liberal by comparison. Apparently a key line of attack for Brat was that Cantor didn’t oppose Obama’s agenda enough, which was basically all Cantor ever did. This does not bode well for bipartisanship. I did, however, appreciate Brat’s pull quote from this New Yorker article:
Congressman Cantor’s profile has been erratic even by Washington standards — flitting from eager establishmentarian coat-holder to self-glorified “Young Gun” and back again. His loyalties, both upward and downward, have shifted in his eager embrace of the Ruling Class. Washington’s only genuine article of faith: maintaining control regardless of how that control affects the life of the folks back home.
I think this indictment of business as usual in Washington should serve notice to incumbents other than Cantor. It may not be a portent of anti-incumbent rage, but challengers across the political spectrum — from Bill de Blasio to Ted Cruz — are taking down establishment candidates. Clearly people are hungry for change.
Some people were under the delusion that the House was going to pass a version of immigration reform this year. Well, you can kiss that DREAM Act goodbye. Just as the Jacobins of old, the Tea Party revolution is eating its Young Guns. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is shaking in his boots.