It is unprecedented. Not that a Tea Party candidate could unseat a Republican in a primary election, but that Tea Party voters could eject a ranking House member and disrupt the Republican establishment leadership.
U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his seat to David Brat, a Tea Party challenger who many predicted would bring a tough battle to Cantor. But the race wasn’t close. With all precincts reporting in Virginia, Brat edged out Cantor with 55.55 percent of the total votes, about 36,110 votes.
All of those pundits and prognosticators who think the Tea Party is dying should look again. Extremism is real. President Obama is so viscerally hated by Republican extremists that any discussion of remotely-progressive legislation, whether real or perceived, is asking for trouble when you’re representing a heavy Tea Party district. The remainder of this year's elections could mirror the 2010 mid-term elections, if not more thanks to gerrymandered re-districting.
So where did Cantor go wrong? Cantor, who was elected in 2000, certainly was never the Tea Party’s golden boy, but he did have some Tea Party support. That support began to slip away as Cantor talked about immigration reform. Brat pounced on this, running attack ads on Cantor and immigration. Cantor represents one of the most, if not the most, conservative districts in his state. By now, we all know how far right Republicans feel about immigration.
Today’s news is a blow for the Republican establishment and moderate Republicans who have been desperately trying to convince Americans, particularly swing voters, that it isn’t controlled by a minority of extremists. Nor does it believe Tea Partiers are sustaining ideologies in the Republican Party that are out of touch. (If you think they’re not “out of touch”, just read Marco Rubio’s comments on climate change).
Tomorrow won’t be business as usual for Republicans, assuming John Boehner gets any sleep tonight. The leadership (as it stands) may want to re-think about their position on immigration.
Today is one for the history books, and I don’t doubt that historians will have a field day trying to unearth long-forgotten comparisons throughout political history that they can find for Cantor’s loss to Brat. That might be a fool’s errand.
It’s hard to find a silver lining in this situation. Virginia is a red state that may turn purple – one day, therefore, the chances of a Democratic challenger like Jack Trammell winning the 7th District this November are hard to imagine. Then again, crazier things have happened … like a House Majority Leader losing to a Tea Party challenger in a primary election.
Corey Arvin is Associate Editor of Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. His column is published every week on blackvoicenews.com. He can be reached at Corey@Blackvoicenews.com and followed on Twitter at Twitter.com/CoreyArvin.