In one of the biggest primary election upsets ever, the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, lost his bid to a virtual unknown.
While every pundit worth their salt has weighted in on the underlying meaning of this, two things occur to me. First, this election was Cantor’s to lose. And lose it he did. It was through his arrogance (on election day he was in Washington meeting with lobbyists) and alienation from his constituents that he lost, not by just a few points but by 12 points, a virtual blowout. This was reminiscent of the loss of the Senate seat of Edward Kennedy by Martha Coakley in Massachusetts in 2010 to a virtual unknown Republican, Scott Brown. Massachusetts, one of the bluest states in the union, rejected Coakley because she took them for granted and considered the seat her birth right.
Second, I have been railing against the January 2010 Supreme Court decision on Citizens United since the decision was handed down. This decision said that corporations are equivalent to people and that money was the equivalent to speech. Thus the corrosive effect of money in politics has been compounded beyond all reason.
Yet Cantor out-raised David Brat by 26:1 (spending about as much on meals for his campaign staff as Brat raised for his entire campaign). I am devastated that money had absolutely no effect on this race. No I take that back. Cantor’s $5 million ad buys served to do nothing but introduce Brat to a public that didn’t have a clue as to who he was. Talk about unintended consequences. Was I wrong? Are those calling for a law to overturn Citizens United, even considering a constitutional amendment, wrong? Was this an aberration? I think so but only time will tell.
Given that in all the Republican primaries up to this point the GOP mainstream seemed to be taking back the field from the Tea Party, what happened? Eugene Robinson of WaPo said, “There can be no doubt that the tail is now wagging the dog. The Tea Party should no longer be thought of as just a faction of the GOP. It’s calling the shots.”
I disagree. A primary reason why the GOP “mainstream” candidates were winning primaries was that they disingenuously moved hard right and adopted much of the radical Tea Party agenda. Therefore, there was no real difference between a mainstream Republican candidate and the Tea Party.
By the way, I adamantly refuse to call the Tea Partyists conservatives. They properly must be referred to as radicals. God help me, I hope that they completely take over the GOP for there is nothing like a radical agenda to wake up the silent middle that thus far has not shown up to vote.
What characterizes the far right; aside from their aberrant views on government and spending (okay add in guns, marriage equality, reproductive rights, education policy, health care and just about anything else) is their anger, miscalled by many as passion. This just goes to show that our emotional, reflexive side overwhelms the rational, contemplative side once again. This predilection shows up in the aggressive responses to perceived slights, such as with Clivon Bundy, “amnesty” for illegal aliens and the absolutism on Second Amendment rights. One reader actually wrote, any limitations on Second Amendment rights would “tear at the fabric of the Constitution.”
This ideological purity reminds me (metaphorically) of self-immolation. As with the Buddhist priests in Vietnam or, more recently, the Tibetan monks, the Tea Party virtually poured gasoline over themselves in 2012 and lost the Senate. And having recovered from the burns, they are doing it again.
For the most part this “passion” is missing from the middle and left where the tendency is to be more coolly rational. Not passion but misdirected rage. And their noise machine masks the fact that they are a minority in American politics. Their supposed numbers are a grand illusion. Very much like seeing a “big” demonstration on TV and having the camera pull back and show that there are only a handful of demonstrators behind the spokesman. Proof of this is that the turnout in the Virginia 7th was only 13.7 percent. And yes, I know this was an increase of 4 percent over 2012, which was itself an abject embarrassment.
Republican intransigence on immigration reform threatens to make Latinos — the biggest minority group in the nation — a hardened constituency of the Democratic Party. If this happens, simple arithmetic makes it hard to imagine how Republicans will be able to compete in, much less win, national elections. In their quest for ideological purity over pragmatism, they are effectively marginalizing the GOP.
“The standard way of dealing with an insurgent movement is to find a way to co-opt its leaders,” Eugene Robinson said. However, this won’t work here, as there are no effective Tea Party leaders. And oppositional politics is not governing. Being against everything is not being for anything.
And by the way, Ayn Rand availed herself of social security.
Gene Altshuler is a resident of Cameron Park and a community activist interested in economic development and local government.