Fact: President Obama faces extreme conservative opposition. But can anyone name the champions of this new right-wing aggression. Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), is the kingpin of much of the anti-Obama sentiment. But just as vital was Eric Cantor (R-VA), who became House Majority leader in 2011. Cantor is responsible for raising almost $30 million for the Republican National Convention. Later, Cantor spearheaded the Young Guns program, with Paul Ryan, in order to bring forth a new generation of popular Republican leadership in Congress. According to POLITICO, Democrats have describe Cantor as “an opportunist, devoid of substance, only out to antagonize the president.” Needless to say, Eric Cantor was an asset for the G.O.P. on many fronts. His loss on Tuesday was a tough defeat for conservatives.
At the small Randolph-Macon College, fifteen miles north of Richmond, Virginia, two professors announced they would be seeking to represent Virginia’s seventh district come Election Day this autumn. Jack Trammell, an economics professor and published author, will attempt to pull off a David and Goliath victory in the heavily Republican district. Meanwhile, David Brat, a history professor, faced off against the mighty Cantor as a Tea Party candidate.
With 97% of the vote counted, Brat had 56% of the votes. Understand what an upset this was. Cantor, a strong Republican with notoriety in Congress and an important title lost to a no-name Tea Party candidate with no serious political experience. Outside of Virginia, most political consultants were certain that Cantor’s incumbency nearly ensured his victory. With that being said, there are quite a few consequences from Brat’s victory.
A rising issue with big-name congressmen and women is their estrangement from their home district. The issues Eric Cantor was dealing with at the federal level may have cause a gap between him and Virginia’s seventh district. On a day-to-day basis, Cantor was most likely not responding or addressing the issues that directly affected his hometown of Ashland, Virginia. A CNN article cites Representative Cantor’s campaign as “mismanaged.” According to recent financial records, Cantor spent $2 million on his campaign while Brat spent only $120,000. A POLITICO article reports that Brat employed two staffers while Cantor employed twenty-three. Likewise, many suggest that Tea-Partiers in Virginia felt particularly alienated by Cantor and G.O.P. leadership.
Statistician, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight examined the election numbers and reassessed the value of primaries. Ultimately, Silver determined that primaries “are more likely to be catastrophes” as opposed to general elections, which preliminary polls can predict more reliably. Primaries were first introduced to U.S. politics in the early 20th century as an outgrowth of fiery progressivism. Today, primaries remain a watershed for the electorate to directly influence candidate popularity. Silver indicates that the results of primaries are inherently capricious and can result in upsets such as Cantor’s.
Lastly, we can see a slight divergence among right-wing voters. The mighty Republican Party would take a serious hit of the Tea Party continues to gather support. The Tea Party revival occurred in the wake of the United States’ debt. Tea Party members staunchly oppose an increase in tax rates. While tax reform is there primary concern, members’ politics merge the platforms of conservative candidates and libertarian approaches. Many Tea Party constituents cite Sarah Palin and Ron Paul as linchpins of their movement. Republicans did not expect serious contention from Tea Party candidates. The loss in Virginia could foreshadow other defeats down the road. In Mississippi, incumbent Senator Thad Cochran takes on popular Tea-Party competitor Chris McDaniel. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas also take on Tea Party contenders in primaries later this month.
Expect a rocky road on the path to Election Day 2014. Cantor’s defeat proves that primaries reveal dark horse candidates and dump incumbents overnight. Who knows, this summer in politics could cause more upsets than March Madness.