NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Eric Cantor to resign as House Majority Leader within weeks as David Brat celebrates

Fol­low­ing his defeat in last night’s Vir­ginia pri­ma­ry, House Major­i­ty Leader Eric Can­tor has decid­ed to step down as Major­i­ty Leader in advance of the end of his term in office, set­ting off a scram­ble for his posi­tion between mul­ti­ple Republicans.

In the cau­cus that holds the House major­i­ty, the posi­tion of Major­i­ty Leader is sec­ond only to that of Speak­er, the only con­gres­sion­al office explic­it­ly men­tioned in the orig­i­nal text of the Con­sti­tu­tion. It’s a pres­ti­gious and pow­er­ful role to have.

So far, Kevin McCarthy, the Repub­li­can Whip, and Pete Ses­sions, the cur­rent chair­man of the Rules Com­mit­tee, seem to be the top con­tenders. Oth­ers may run, too. Jeb Hen­sar­ling, who, like Ses­sions is from Texas, has hint­ed he may throw his hat into the ring, fol­low­ing encour­age­ment by a num­ber of right wing groups.

Can­tor, mean­while, has accept­ed defeat and does not plan to pur­sue a write-in can­di­da­cy, as Alaska’s Lisa Murkows­ki suc­cess­ful­ly did in 2010. “To run a write-in cam­paign is to run not as a Repub­li­can, and I am a Repub­li­can,” Can­tor alleged­ly said in a meet­ing of the Repub­li­can brass in the Capitol.

Can­tor’s demise is one of the biggest polit­i­cal upsets in his­to­ry. No sit­ting major­i­ty leader has been denied renom­i­na­tion in more than a hun­dred years. And few saw Can­tor’s defeat com­ing. Nation­al tea par­ty groups had con­clud­ed that Can­tor would win his race, and so paid lit­tle atten­tion to David Brat. But Brat was boost­ed by a local net­work of Tea Par­ty activists as well as right wing talk show hosts like Lau­ra Ingra­ham, who called in to Meg­yn Kel­ly’s show on Fox to cel­e­brate last night.

Can­tor ulti­mate­ly became his own worst ene­my. He became com­pla­cent, and vot­ers often pun­ish com­pla­cen­cy with a vengeance. He did­n’t spend much time in his dis­trict or pri­or­i­tize his con­stituents. He was too busy try­ing to attain more power.

Though Can­tor had embraced the Tea Par­ty move­ment as Major­i­ty Leader, it did­n’t inoc­u­late him from a pri­ma­ry chal­lenge. Can­tor and his peo­ple did not dis­miss David Brat’s can­di­da­cy — they spent mil­lions of dol­lars in the runup to yes­ter­day’s elec­tion — but they act­ed as if all they had to do was buy some adver­tis­ing and they’d win.

They were sound­ly defeat­ed by a cam­paign that did­n’t have much mon­ey, but did have shoe leather and pas­sion, and put it to good use.

Judg­ing by his media appear­ances, Brat was clear­ly not expect­ing to win, and despite being an eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor, does­n’t seem to have thought through all of his posi­tions. Pri­or to yes­ter­day, he was the grass­roots alter­na­tive to Eric Can­tor who did­n’t stand a chance. Today he’s the Repub­li­can nominee.

Asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd about his posi­tion on the min­i­mum wage, Brat squirmed. “Um, um, um, I don’t have a well-craft­ed response on that one,” he told Todd (again, despite being an eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor and the chair­man of Ran­dolph-Macon Col­lege’s eco­nom­ics department).

And when Todd asked about for­eign affairs (“On a for­eign pol­i­cy issue, arm­ing the Syr­i­an rebels. Would you be in favor of that?”) this was Brat’s response:

“Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the cel­e­bra­to­ry aspects… I’d love to go through all of this but my mind is — I love all the pol­i­cy ques­tions but I just want­ed to talk about the vic­to­ry ahead and I want­ed to thank every­body that worked so hard on my cam­paign. I’m hap­py to take pol­i­cy issues at any time, I just want­ed to call out a thanks to every­body today.”

What a reveal­ing answer.

Does Brat not real­ize that Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tives are law­mak­ers? He’s not com­pet­ing in a beau­ty pageant, he’s run­ning for Con­gress. It’s quite appro­pri­ate for Chuck Todd to ask for his views on a thorny for­eign pol­i­cy issue.

Mean­while, Brat’s gen­er­al elec­tion oppo­nent, Demo­c­rat Jack Tram­mell, who also works at Ran­dolph-Macon Col­lege, is get­ting lots of help revving up his cam­paign. Dur­ing the last twen­ty-four hours, he’s got­ten a web­site up, estab­lished a Face­book page, and received an avalanche of offers of help.

The Vir­ginia Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is field­ing media inquiries for his cam­paign and help­ing him build infra­struc­ture for a fall cam­paign. The dis­trict has a strong Repub­li­can lean, but is cer­tain­ly not impos­si­ble for a Demo­c­rat to win.

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