BY ROBERT ROMANO | JUNE 18, 2014
Return of the Tea Party
Republican primary voters have cast a decisive verdict against the Washington establishment in Virginia's 7th Congressional District. In ousting House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), grassroots activists led by the tea party have marked a stunning comeback in the national political scene.
The beneficiary of Cantor's fall, Randolph-Macon College economics professor Dave Brat, ran his campaign against $17.5 trillion national debt, illegal immigration amnesty, bank bailouts, any legislation that funds Obamacare, and National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance.
Brat won in a landslide, with 56 percent of the vote. The margin was more than 7,000 votes in a primary in which about 65,000 voted.
The attack against Cantor came on fully funding Obamacare, voting for the TARP bailouts, voting to expand Medicare, supporting allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. as a matter of policy, and voting against an amendment by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) that would have ended the NSA's mass surveillance program.
That Cantor was not fully representing the Republican Party base in his district was no secret, but the issues may have played but a secondary role in Cantor's demise, says one political observer.
"The extraordinary lengths Cantor allies went to in their slating efforts to disenfranchise conservatives and wrestle control of the state party provoked a massive backlash," American Commitment President Phil Kerpen noted in an email.
Breitbart.com's Matthew Boyle reported on the slating the Cantor campaign was responsible for, wherein "a series of recent incidents in which GOP party officials departed from tradition and excluded dozens of conservative activists from attending local party conventions."
Apparently, the goal in stacking the meetings was to reject conservative convention delegates in an attempt to take control over the Commonwealth's Republican Party, and to push back the tea party wing.
As Kerpen noted, it definitely backfired. "One of the lessons of Cantor's defeat is that having your team go all over the state poking conservatives in the eyes is a great way to endanger your own seat."
The first sign of serious trouble for Cantor may have come with the election of Fred Gruber to head up Virginia's 7th Congressional District Republican Committee in May. Gruber defeated Cantor loyalist Linwood Cobb for the post.
That in turn sparked establishment outrage. Former Virginia Lt. Governor Bill Bolling blasted the Gruber win in the pages of the Washington Post, saying, "While the voice of every Republican should be heard, our challenge is to figure out how to be a conservative party, without allowing the most extreme voices of the day to control our party and determine its future direction."
There, Bolling was speaking not only against Gruber supporters, but to Brat supporters, who Gruber backed. The establishment — with Bolling as its visible spokesman — was calling anyone who dared challenge Cantor "the most extreme voices of the day."
Perhaps Cantor and company should have heeded the warning of former Conservative Party chairman and Margaret Thatcher cabinet minister Norman Tebbit, speaking on the trouble David Cameron's Tories have had in the UK, losing ground to the Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party: "If you kick your core voters hard enough, Mr. Cameron, they might kick back."
And surely they did, with the UK Independence Party coming in first place in Britain's European Parliament elections last month. Cameron's Tories came in a distant third.
What Cameron learned, and Cantor and Republican leaders in Washington, D.C. are now realizing, is that no party and no politician is safe. The American people expect results, and they want representation. Cantor failed to represent his district, and when challenged, lashed out against activists there. He owns his defeat.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.