On June 10th 2014, the Tea Party movement may have either saved or shattered the Republican Party. Republican Congressman and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost to Randolph-Macon College (University) Economics Professor Dave Brat. Former House Majority Leader Cantor was often deemed to be one of the most conservative members of Congress. Cantor was often said to be a thorn in Speaker John Boehner’s side and it was no secret in Washington D.C. that whenever Boehner would retire, Cantor would jump at the chance to be Speaker. Up until a few hours ago, Eric Cantor was an institution in Virginia politics, unmovable and indestructible, much like the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond built in 1788 and survived the Civil War. Cantor, though, succumbed to the forces of politics and did not survive his 2014 primary race. Cantor is the first ever House Majority Leader to be unseated in a primary election since the office was created 115 years ago.
The victory of Tea Party challenger Dave Brat could lead to one of two outcomes. First, this is just the kind of psychological victory needed by the Tea Party movement to press forward and mount successful primaries against incumbent Republican senators. If enough primaries are won by Tea Party candidates that are too right-wing for the country but considered “middle of the road” for the modern Republican primary, this will undoubtedly ensure the Democrats keep the Senate.
Nevertheless, just as this election result has emboldened the Tea Party, it will also mobilise the Establishment of the Republican Party. Perhaps incumbent candidates will visit their districts more often and go to neighborhood cookouts instead of Washington D.C. galas. It behooves members of Congress to remember why they are in Washington D.C. and that the United States is still a democracy with elections that must be won. The events of June 10th could be just the kick in the rear that Establishment Republicans need to realise they can still win back the U.S. Senate and that they should try to keep at it.
In part what is saddening about Tuesday’s primary election is that the loss was so unexpected. Elections for Congress nowadays are generally no longer surprising. In fact, election coverage often seems to depict quiet coronations rather than victories fought for on a battlefield. According to Bloomberg News, 90% of Congressmen and 91% of Senators get reelected, all this in spite of historically low approval ratings for the U.S. Congress.
Another sad fact about this result is it goes to show that with the power of incumbency comes the arrogance to think that money can solve all electoral woes. Cantor spent $5 million USD on the campaign trail in contrast to Professor Brat’s meager $200,000. Rather than bombard his constituents with a multitude of annoying advertisements, Eric Cantor should have actually knocked on constituents’ doors and asked them what he can do to help them in Washington D.C.
Now comes the aftermath of this race. No, it really does not matter who wins in Eric Cantor’s district now whether it is the Republican or the Democrat, or Cantor as an Independent write-in candidate. None of the three possible Congressmen are eligible for top leadership positions in Congress. The defeat of Eric Cantor has opened up the position of House Majority Leader and the battle in Washington for that position will be more fearsome than any election a Congressman has ever faced.
Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin should put his name forward for Majority Leader and he should get the job. Now is not the time for the GOP to bow down to the dictates and fanaticism of the Tea Party. Now is the time for the Tea Party to be crushed and for common sense moderation to prevail. Paul Ryan cares about the poor, the unemployed, and 100% of the American people. Ryan is the only notable GOP elected official talking about poverty in the United States in spite of misquotations by his detractors. It was Paul Ryan along with Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington State that united Washington D.C. with their budget proposal for 2014 and 2015 after the government shutdown in 2013. Paul Ryan’s commitment to bipartisanship contrasts sharply with the dogmatic proclamations of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who caused the 2013 government shutdown.
Thanks to his nomination as the Vice Presidential candidate in 2012 for the Republican Party, Ryan has the kind of name recognition needed for a job as serious as House Majority Leader. The current House Majority Whip, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California is technically first in line for the job as House Majority Leader. Regardless, Kevin McCarthy is a dull politician and does not have the charisma or media savvy needed to be House Majority Leader. Now is the time for the GOP to declare what it stands for: free markets, promoting independence of the individual, and defending civilians from government overreach.
So why should you, my reader, who in all likelihood is a non-American, care about a primary election in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District? In the American legislative system, it is the House Majority Leader who traditionally schedules votes on bills on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Therefore when it comes to voting on issues such as raising the debt ceiling or passing the annual federal budget, both of which have serious ramifications on international markets, the House Majority Leader is crucial to these decisions.
Make no mistake; the House Majority Leader is one of the most powerful people in the world. A House Majority Leader can even prove to be a decisive figure in a declaration of war. Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas famously rallied Republicans in favor of the Iraq War in 2003. Therefore let us hope that for once, common sense will prevail in Washington D.C. and that the new House Majority Leader will be more in tune with the American people, and his constituents, than the last one. No, Congressman Ryan is not perfect; he is in fact a flawed candidate as his loss on the world stage in 2012 surely demonstrated. Yet, when looking around at the current crop of “would-be” leaders of the Republican House of Representatives, for now, Congressman Ryan is surely best choice out there.