The country was left shocked last Tuesday, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost in South Carolina’s primary to Dave Brat, professor and chair of the department of economics and business at Randolph-Macon College. Along with the primary victory of Ben Sasse in Nebraska, and the forced runoff in Mississippi between incumbent Republican Thad Cochran and State Senator Chris McDaniel (who Breitbart.com claims is leading in the polls), it seems that the theme for this year’s Congressional election is “upset.” This is just what the Tea Party has been hoping for.
During CPAC this year, it became obvious that those speakers identified with the Tea Party were focusing on winning Democratic seats and replacing complacent Republicans in Congress was of much higher importance than worrying about the 2016 presidential election. Thus, as both Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin have thrown their support–and, by proxy, the support of the Tea Party–behind some of these “underdog” candidates, national politics are now being influenced by the very group that the left has attempted to claim was dying, much to their chagrin. Conservative voices across America are getting louder, and these voices make it obvious that establishment Republicans need to be looked at with more scrutiny.
Why is it good that the number two Republican in Congress lost his seat? He lost touch with his constituents. He became caught up with securing John Boehner’s spot as Speaker, and lost his seat as a result of his complacency–even though he raised about five and a half million dollars compared to Dave Brat’s $200,000. The Tea Party is right in asserting that if the culture in Washington is going to change to benefit the American people, then that change starts with elections. In particular, it starts with conservative voters replacing those in Congress who they believe aren’t fighting for their best interests. Eric Cantor was by no means the worst Republican politician in Washington. However, when representatives no longer represent the people that elected them, it’s time for them to go.
It makes sense that, as new issues arise or old issues resurface, the views of those in the “establishment” may come to light as less than desired by the average American. It is for precisely this reason that Congressional elections happen every two years: times change, and when the people need someone else to speak on their behalf they have the ability to replace their representatives promptly. Elections aren’t merely a mechanism for reinforcing the status quo, but an opportunity for making a meaningful change in Washington.
Consequently, if conservatives in South Carolina think that amnesty is the wrong approach for addressing immigration reform–especially in light of this year’s dramatic increase in illegals crossing the border from Mexico–electing someone new is not only logical, but prudent. Voters are utilizing the election system as it was intended to function. Maybe the Tea Party could enact some additional change with John McCain, or even with John Boehner. Just a thought.
In light of all of this, the biggest mistake conservatives can make right now is falling into the “divisiveness” trap: pitting moderates, Tea Party candidates, and traditional Republicans against each other. A party divided against itself cannot stand, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that if the GOP alienates moderates, libertarians, or the Tea Party, it can kiss any sort of election victory goodbye, whether that victory is in 2014 or in the 2016 race to beat Hillary. Tea Party or not, it’s this type of Congressional upset that will restore real conservative values and morals to Washington. Eric Cantor might stand on the right side of some issues, but when he spends more money at steakhouses than Dave Brat does on his entire campaign, ideology doesn’t matter anymore: he no longer represents his constituents. This is exactly what the seventh district of Virginia recognized last week, and their vote provides the rest of us with an avenue for a major reformatting of the GOP. Virginia demonstrated last week that holding our representatives accountable isn’t a conservative or a liberal idea–it’s an American one.
These upsets have definitely made waves early in this election cycle, and it certainly seems like they will do nothing but help Republicans in the long run. But what the Tea Party has started must be continued: this is a “throw the bums out” election, and there are still quite a few left to go.