After the stunning primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week, there is definitely some “Fear and Loathing in Wash-Vegas” for the Republican Party. Many great minds around the United States are trying to figure out one central question…
1) Why did Cantor lose?
Pretty basic stuff here, and it comes up after every election with a surprise result. But what makes this different is because in Washington, Cantor was one of the top dogs of Congress… essentially next in line to be Speaker of the House. He was a decision maker for the Party, and someone that commanded the attention of not just those on Capitol Hill, but across the nation. For him to lose in his home district is a huge upset for the national GOP.
Interestingly enough, the reason for Cantor’s loss isn’t the same one that keeps the Texas GOP in power… i.e. low turnout. In fact, the turnout for the 7th District’s GOP Primary was at an historic high. With 65,000 Virginians showing up at the polls, they bested the previous 21st century record by almost 20,000!! People came to vote on June 10th, and they came to vote against Cantor. Don’t feel too bad for the Majority Leader though, as this is a House of Cards that he helped to build.
VA-7 was gerrymandered to specifically be a Republican stronghold. They drew in more White, historically Conservative voters, and drew out voters of broader demographics and perspectives. It’s the same game that the GOP (and to be fair many Democrats in blue states) have played all over the country… make my district so red/ so blue that I simply cannot lose. Perhaps Mr. Cantor forgot that sometimes a district can become so red that you cannot win. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
The gerrymandering was of great advantage to Brat, as it allowed him to harness the most powerful force in the Republican Party… FEAR. He took advantage of vague indications that Cantor might be willing to work on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and lambasted the public with ads and fliers saying that he supports amnesty. As sad as it sounds, “the minority takeover” is what a large part of today’s GOP voters are most afraid of, and that fear will surge voter turnout every time. Of course don’t feel sorry for the lame-duck Congressman in this… after all it was he who often sowed the seeds of hatred for his own party. But like any good Frankenstein story, fear and hatred have a tendency to turn on their master after a while.
But these same seeds have been sown across the Republican Party, and it is why every career politician on the Right is in danger now. Once you charge too far and embrace the fringe-right, you have to do their bidding, or you risk Cantor-style extinction. This defeat is a huge indication that the GOP as we know it is over. There is no Party anymore, but only a loose coalition of voters motivated by animus. If we as a country have any hope of getting the American People’s business done, it does not lie with the GOP.
So congratulations to you Mr. Cantor. The garden has grown, the fruits are ripe, and you’ve been served your just deserts.