Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A few thoughts on the VA-07 and Cantor's primary defeat

Yesterday, David Brat defeated Eric Cantor in the Republican primary election for the congressional seat in Virginia's 7th district. I live in the 7th district. I happen to also be married to a Randolph-Macon college professor--that is where Dave Brat is a college professor and also where Jack Trammell--the Democratic candidate.

Because I have statistics homework to finish, I don't have time to put my thoughts together in any sort of cohesive manner. So here they are in all of their in-cohesive glory:

  • First of all, a bit of an I told you so. Many of our national pundits keep saying that "No one saw this coming." While this is certainly unexpected, I wouldn't say "no one say it coming." Instead I would say that the national media, like Eric Cantor's campaign, did not see it coming. Many locals did see it coming. Even I wrote a post two years ago that summarized Cantor's vulnerability (though I published the post several months later.) And a month ago  local bloggers were still emphasizing Cantor's unpopularity. And so was I:

  • Second, while certainly, Brat's victory is somewhat about immigration (and let's face it, bigotry)--a component of Brat's campaign platform is anti-immigrant, that was not the beginning or the end of why Brat won.
  • As I said here, Eric Cantor is notoriously unpopular in his district. He's not accessible to his constituents and he doesn't much care about them. He takes them for granted, treating them like a rich uncle you have to have dinner with occasionally if you want to keep receiving the checks, only in this case it's votes. He's a Republican in a very conservative district which up until now had no challengers. That's all.
  • Say what you will about his political and economic views, and I think we all know that I don't agree with the vast majority of them, but Dave Brat is accessible and he hit the pavement during this campaign. He is happy to sit and explain his views to you, no matter who you are, in great detail. He will talk to anyone who will listen--whether at Estes, the Randolph Macon dining hall, at lunch time or on a campaign stop. He met with any group that asked and entertained any question that was asked. And remember, he is a teacher; it's his job to explain.
  • Furthermore, driving around the area of the 7th district where I live in recent months, I have seen clusters of Brat supporters waving signs and chanting--I've seen them in Hanover where I live, in the city of Richmond, and in Chesterfield. All of the kids on my sons' soccer team know who David Brat is because they have driven past these clusters and asked their parents, "Who is Dave Brat and why does he want to fire Cantor?" I know I have had this conversation several times with my own children. At this point, they probably know more about this primary than the national media did.
  • While Dave Brat actually talked to the constituents he was courting, Eric Cantor's campaign was sending out glossy mailers and putting up posters and lawn signs. That's it: mailers and lawn signs. Otherwise, he kept his distance from the little people. When you actually talk to and listen the people you are hoping to represent, it makes a difference. As political science professor and Associate Dean Lauren Bell said, "to borrow from Roll Call's assessment of Oklahoma Democrat Mike Synar's 1994 loss in the primary, Eric Cantor's loss tonight demonstrates that 'there's a limit to the number of times you can tell your constituents to go screw themselves' "
  • The national media seems to be conducting themselves a lot like, well, the Cantor campaign. They don't do any research or talk to people who actually write about or live or vote in the places their covering. This is a problem that applies not just to this topic but to so many others (ahem, education reform).
  • Eric Cantor vastly outspent David Brat. Organizations such as like the Bold Progressives are right to see this as a sign that Big Money is not necessarily destined to win. Leftist and populist progressive Democrats did very well in recent primaries.
  • While David Brat is more accessible, and is anti-elitist, anti-NSA, and anti-Wall Street corruption, he is also anti-government. In other words, he is no Elizabeth Warren. At the root, he is a true believer in the magic of the free market. He was especially against Cantor because Cantor is a crony capitalist and crony capitalism impedes a truly free market.
  • Progressives, rather than getting stuck on complaining about how awful the Tea Party is and how depressing it is a candidate to the right of Cantor won, support and give money to the progressive candidate in this election, Jack Trammel.
  • How great is it that the race in the VA-07 is between two liberal arts college professors, teachers, who read and write books. Think about that for a minute.
  • ONE MORE THOUGHT (added later): I don't have numbers on this but Virginia has open primaries and I know a few Democrats and Independents who voted for Brat simply in protest of Cantor. As I said, no one in the 7th likes Cantor.
This has been cross-posted at Blue Virginia.

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