Saturday, June 14, 2014


"If you let Americans do their thing, there is no scarcity, right? They said we're going to run out of food 200 years ago, and then we're going to have another ice age. Now it's, we're heating up,” — David Brat, Virginia Congressional candidate and climate-change denier 

AS THOSE of you who follow American politics already know, there was a big upset on the Republican primary ticket in the 7th congressional district in Virginia. Unknown Tea Partier David Brat defeated current House majority leader Eric Cantor.

The forensic postmortems started before the results were official. Here are a couple of takes on it: the first by one of my favorite New York Times columnists, Gail Collins, and the other by the NYT Editorial Board. I thought you might find them interesting.

Unfortunately Iowa has its own wackadoodle candidate in Joni Ernst. Steve King and her? It's embarrassing.

I guess they did! The question is: will we be saddled with someone
even more detrimental? Please save us, Virginia voters!
We'll try to do our job here in Iowa.

Putting a Cap on Cantor
Why Did Eric Cantor Lose in Virginia?
Gail Collins
June 11, 2014

Pardon me. I’m having trouble getting my thoughts together today. I’m so upset about Eric Cantor.

Yes! The House majority leader was tossed out of office Tuesday in an apocalyptic, stunning, incredible earthquake of an election in Virginia that has left the nation absolutely floored in shock.

“This is a 10 on the political Richter scale,” announced Representative Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The Democrats were sort of gleeful about the whole situation, to tell the truth.

Cantor was beaten — trounced, really — by David Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, who had no money and so little name recognition it’s possible that Cantor himself could not have picked him out in a crowd.

What could have happened? Was it Tea Party rage that sent nearly 14 percent of the eligible voters in Virginia’s 7th congressional district stampeding to the polls, delivering a message that shook the nation to its core? Or was it something personal? Cantor’s not the most charismatic guy in the universe. Do you think his constituents sensed that he was spending election morning in a D.C. Starbucks, at what The Washington Post described as a “monthly meeting with large donors and lobbyists?”

Americans always get a little kick out of David and Goliath stories, even if — as in this case — David turns out to be a pet of right-wing commentators, who ran on a “no amnesty!” platform. We don’t actually know a whole lot more about Brat at this point. His hobby is “pickleball,” which is apparently a mixture of badminton, tennis and Ping-Pong. It sounds very interesting, although not as much as Paul Ryan’s hobby of walking along a stream and trying to grab catfish by their throats.

The website for Brat’s candidacy noted that he served on Virginia’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists under two governors and claimed that everyone in the state comes to him for budgetary insight “knowing that he tested his rural values against the intellectual elite while at Princeton.” Actually, he went to Princeton Theological Seminary, which is an entirely different place. But at the moment, people are more fascinated by the fact that his entire election budget was $200,000, which is only slightly more than what Cantor’s campaign spent on steak dinners.

There are definitely some downsides to this development. Brat, who leads Randolph-Macon’s BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program, once co-authored a paper on “The Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand,” and there is possibly nothing the nation needs less than a new Ayn Rand fan in Congress.

Also, we really do not need the Republicans in the House to become even more paranoid about a primary from the right. They’ve been nervous for a long time, but this is a whole new scenario. It’s the difference between worrying about burglars and hearing that a gopher in your neighbor’s backyard suddenly grew to be 6 feet long, broke down the door and ate all the furniture.

Cantor’s district in Virginia is heavily Republican, so the Democratic nominee — Jack Trammell, an associate sociology professor at Randolph-Macon College — is a long shot. But you never can tell. Brat could wind up being a terrible candidate. In one of his first interviews after the victory, he was asked for his position on raising the minimum wage and replied: “I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one.” Now, you could understand why a guy in his position wouldn’t have a detailed plan for what to do about Syria, but an economics professor who has spent the last several months telling people that he wants to help working-class America really ought to have thought this one out.

And, by the way, what do you think is going on with the faculty at Randolph-Macon College?

But the election comes later. Why do you think Cantor blew the primary? Many observers think he’d lost touch with his constituents. This comes up a lot in congressional races, but generally not with lawmakers who live within a two-hour drive of the Capitol.

Armed with a 26-to-1 cash advantage, Cantor apparently couldn’t resist introducing voters to his hitherto unknown opponent by running attack ads, howling about “Liberal College Professor David Brat” and featuring pictures of Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, who was in office for part of the time that Brat was on the economic advisory board.

In Virginia, Democrats and independents are allowed to vote in the Republican primary. Maybe some of them saw the ads and thought: “Great! A liberal professor! And Tim Kaine was a great governor. At least he didn’t get indicted like the last one.”

Maybe not. But as the sun sinks on Eric Cantor, we have to reflect that one of the plusses to this story is that the House majority leader may have lost his seat because he made a mistake in presuming that Americans hate college professors more than professional politicians.

In G.O.P., Far Right Is Too Moderate
In Virginia, Eric Cantor Trounced by David Brat
JUNE 11, 2014

The forces of political nihilism not only remain alive and well within the Republican Party, but they are on the rise. Witness the way they shook Washington on Tuesday by removing from power Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who had been one of the most implacable opponents to the reform of immigration, health care and taxation. His crime (in addition to complacent campaigning)? He was occasionally obliged, as a leader, to take a few minimalist steps toward governing, like raising the debt ceiling and ending a ruinous shutdown.

For that he was pilloried in his Virginia district by a little-known resident of the distant extremes, David Brat, whose most effective campaign tool was a photo showing Mr. Cantor standing next to President Obama. By falsely portraying the seven-term incumbent as just another compromiser, just another accommodationist to the power of big government, Mr. Brat managed the unimaginable feat of bringing down a majority leader in a primary, and by double digits.

“Cantor is the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty,” Mr. Brat wrote in The Richmond Times-Dispatch on Friday. This is utter nonsense. More than anyone else in the House, including Speaker John Boehner, Mr. Cantor was responsible for the chamber’s refusal to vote on the Senate’s immigration bill. He personally refused to allow a vote on an amendment to give legal status to undocumented immigrants who serve in the military.

He did publicly muse about the possibility of a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for children brought to the country illegally, perhaps aware that the long-term future of the Republican Party requires the support of some Hispanic voters. But after voting down the real Dream Act in 2010, he never brought his own bill to the floor. He sent fliers around his district saying the “Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty” would ignore the rule of law and “reward people for illegal behavior.” He was nonetheless called “amnesty-addled” by one of Mr. Brat’s talk-radio surrogates.

Mr. Cantor did vote repeatedly to raise the debt ceiling, as Mr. Brat likes to point out in his most irresponsible smear. But Mr. Cantor is better remembered as the leader who, along with Mr. Boehner, openly encouraged the House Tea Party class of 2010 to begin a series of high-stakes debt standoffs with the White House that nearly plunged the country over the brink of default. Having unleashed the most destructive political impulses of his party, he finally fell victim to them.

Those impulses continue to batter the party around the country, producing candidates who are light-years from the mainstream. Chris McDaniel, who has a strong chance of winning the June 24 runoff for the Republican nomination to Mississippi’s Senate seat, was the first to sign a new anti-immigrant pledge not to grant amnesty and to prevent growth of legal immigration. Joni Ernst, the new Republican nominee for Iowa’s Senate seat, is anti-amnesty, hates the Clean Water Act, and wants private Social Security accounts.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who won his primary on Tuesday, supports immigration reform but placated conservatives by regularly going on talk shows to bash Mr. Obama’s foreign policy and suggest the possibility of impeachment.

Mr. Brat will probably go to Congress next year, joining Republicans like these who will face a momentous choice for their party. Now that Mr. Cantor has agreed to step down, will he and other members of the leadership be replaced by even more divisive politicians determined to stage confrontations with the president at every juncture? Will they continue to ignore a stagnating economy, inadequate education and decaying cities? If they do, they will create an opening for Democrats. The majority of Americans remain appalled by this extremism and want better choices than the one in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District.

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