Brat Beats Cantor: Virginia’s Backlash against D.C. Establishment Just the Beginning

Published on June 11th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
June 11, 2014

In Virginia’s 7th District, economic professor and political neophyte Dave Brat’s 12-point thumping over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been described as a political earthquake. But those who have been taking America’s temperature know how fed up the country is with the Washington D.C. establishment. They anticipated that this might finally be the year that the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street endorsed incumbents get the boot.

“Throw the bums out,” “Time for new leadership,” “I’ll never vote for him again.” These have been voters’ battle cries every year around election time. For as often as they’re repeated, however, little has come of it. In the House, incumbents win about 90 percent of the time. Since 1964, the winning margin has been as high as 98 percent six times and never lower than 85 percent. 

This year, however, is different. America’s anger runs deep. Cantor is an unabashed amnesty advocate who, not coincidentally and disingenuously, portrayed himself as against it. Hard as he tried, Cantor couldn’t fool his constituents. In recent days, Cantor reached out to President Obama in an appeal to work together on immigration legislation, namely his Kids Act which would allow illegal immigrants to enroll at colleges for the cheaper instate tuition fee. As Cantor found out at the polling booth, amnesty is toxic.

Brat’s win is a mainstream America triumph over Beltway insiders. Since the Senate passed its amnesty bill last year, the fraudulently named Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, Americans have been solidly opposed. Despite misleading polling and biased reporting that tried to sell S. 744 as good for the nation, Americans know differently. Legalizing 12 million illegal immigrants, giving them work permits, issuing visas to nearly 30 million overseas workers at a time when nearly 20 million Americans can’t find a fulltime job, 50 million live in poverty and 50 million depend on food stamps is a tough sell. Brat, whose platform boiled down to “a vote for Cantor is vote for open borders and lower wages,” successfully showed voters the link between more immigration and fewer jobs.

Congress’ intense, non-stop effort to pass amnesty is viewed as one example among many of how out of touch Republican leadership is with its base. Brat emphasized the disconnect when he said over and over again that Congress needs to pay more attention to Main Street and less attention to Wall Street. 

Dismayed Democrats and the Hispanic lobby immediately tried to discredit Brat’s win. DNC chair Rep. Debbie DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that the election result proves that the Tea Party has taken control of the GOP. Wasserman Schultz must not have been paying attention. Most of the tea party groups ignored the Cantor-Brat race to focus on Mississippi runoff between incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran against State Senator Chris McDaniel. And they certainly didn’t contribute to Brat’s campaign coffers. Cantor outspent Brat $5 million to $250,000.

What follows Brat’s victory will be a ripple effect that could displace other pro-immigration Republican candidates in upcoming summer primaries. Analysts see as particularly vulnerable Kansas’ Pat Roberts and Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander. 

Effective immediately, Cantor’s defeat will have multiple consequences. Weakened beyond repair, Cantor may not serve out his term which would open up the Major Leader’s position. And Speaker John Boehner, another unpopular amnesty advocate who many critics correctly view as a Chamber lackey, could be the next to go.

Since it’s so hard to kill off amnesty once and for all, declaring it dead may be premature. But Brat’s successful campaign sends a message to other legislators that being in the Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic lobby’s back pocket is a losing strategy.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]

You are donating to :

How much would you like to donate?
$10 $20 $30
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note