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House majority leader defeated in Virginia primary

June 11, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
So all the pollsters were wrong yesterday.

A college economics professor named David Brat defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia Republican Primary.

So far, the news coverage seems to be focusing on Brat's Libertarian beliefs and Tea Party ties. The general consensus seems to be that Cantor's leadership position and the stance he took on the need for immigration reform probably hurt him badly in the primary. The 70-year-old female Virginia voter I heard opining this afternoon on Rush Limbaugh's radio program seems to be of the opinion that Cantor stopped caring about the common folk once he went to Washington D.C. The woman, who voted for Brat, also has a strong dislike for Obamacare, another thing that probably factored into this race. I doubt that a junior congressman from Virginia would have much success in repealing the two year old Affordable Health Care Act, but the Virginia Republicans who voted for Brat would probably like him to try.

Apparently unlike Professor Brat, I'm no particular fan of the writer Ayn Rand and her Objectivist philosophy. The Boston Globe reports that Brat authored a paper on the moral foundations of Ayn Rand, but doesn't consider himself a Randian. I also don't have much use for the kind of polarized politics that have resulted in gridlock in Congress all too often over the past several years. If Brat is the sort of fellow that news reports say he is, he'd likely add one more voice to that gridlock if he were elected. Of course, the Republican vote could be split and the Democrat could win as a result.

What do you make of yesterday's upset? What do you think it might mean for the election in November?


Cantor's defeat seems to have flabbergasted national media. The latest explanation for the loss is that Virginia voters might have a touch of latent anti-Semitism. I have to say that I had never given much thought to Cantor's religion or knew that he was Jewish, though I've only heard about him on occasion in the national news. I assume the people in his majority Christian district knew he was Jewish. They've also reelected him numerous times. Brat apparently has a degree in theology and is a practicing Catholic who often mentions God in his speeches. Here is a New York Times article on the religion issue:

I would say the old woman on the Rush Limbaugh program probably had the best take on why people voted for Brat. They thought Cantor had lost touch with his constituents and they don't like his ideas on immigration reform. Religion didn't have anything to do with it.


Article Comments



Jun-14-14 9:34 PM

I imagine they had a pretty good idea of who Brat was or at least what he was against. They voted Cantor out because they didn't like the job he was doing.


Jun-13-14 8:53 PM

When you're throwing the bums out, often lost are the subtleties of who you're voting in.


Jun-13-14 5:35 PM

That kind of religious talk is pretty typical of people in the South, at least in evangelical circles. Cantor reportedly also talked about God in his speeches.

Brat has a rather interesting religious background. Based on the news coverage, he was actually raised Protestant and earned his degree from Protestant-affiliated universities. His wife is Catholic and they split their time between the Catholic church and a Protestant church. He's a Calvinist who attends a Catholic church. He's also a Midwesterner, not a Southerner like Cantor, since he grew up in Michigan and Minnesota.


Jun-13-14 3:51 PM

Strange...he didn't specify which deity he was referencing...


Jun-13-14 12:24 PM

David Brat feels religion had something to do with his win. He boldly declared that his election was "a miracle from God."

Mr. Brat later announced that, "God acted through the people on my behalf."

How could anyone say religion isn't a factor when GOD ALMIGHTY acted on David Brant's behalf?


Jun-13-14 9:38 AM

The Blue Dogs will get you to come to the middle of the road someday.


Jun-12-14 9:05 PM

Eric Cantor himself has spoken about the "darker side" of the mono-cultural House GOP.


Jun-12-14 3:13 PM

Brat apparently ran primarily on immigration. People in that district do not like the idea of "amnesty" and didn't like that Cantor had come up with a plan that would allow people here illegally to eventually become citizens.

Cantor is a Southerner and he also has apparently talked about God in his speeches. He's been re-elected multiple times in a mostly Christian district. I really doubt religion was much of a factor, if at all.


Jun-12-14 2:37 PM

Yet he still managed to get a leadership position, given the makeup of the Republican US House delegation. Funny how that works...


Jun-12-14 2:22 PM


Eric Cantor is the only Republican member of Congress -- in either the House or the Senate -- who is Jewish.


Jun-12-14 2:16 PM

True, Cantor served for decades -- but as you know, this was a new gerrymandered rural district.

I am not calling anyone "anti-Semitic."

Obviously, I don't know what's in people's hearts. But, Cantor's opponent made his own religion a feature of the campaign.

My basic point is that religion does in fact figure in to this -- particularly when one considers that Cantor was the sole Jewish House Republican.


Jun-12-14 12:50 PM

Based on the polls I've seen, Jews are statistically more apt to vote Democrat than Republican, which might be a contributing factor in the dearth of Republican Jewish lawmakers.

Cantor has served for a couple of decades and the district he represented was overwhelmingly evangelical Christian. Why would those same voters suddenly become anti-Semitic just because they decided they wanted someone new?


Jun-12-14 12:46 PM

"Religion didn't have anything to do with it."

Cantor was the ONLY non-Christian Republican in the House. Statistically, that cannot just be an accident. The GOP's total and complete lack of diversity means that religion IS a big factor here.

The GOP cannot claim to be a national party if it only represents straight, White, Christian males.


Jun-12-14 11:17 AM

Addendum: Obviously I do live in this country and won't be moving even if the far right or the far left win overwhelmingly at the polls come November. But I would be counting the days until the country returned to rationality.


Jun-12-14 11:15 AM

And the end result is that we pay a bunch of suits to do essentially nothing (except attend the occasional fundraiser or rub elbows with the elites) in the name of maintaining their "core values." I don't want to live in a country governed solely by far right OR far left principles, thank you very much, though I admit I have a few pet hobby horses like juvenile justice or health care or abolishing the death penalty. Still, the middle ground is usually the best choice.

As the district this Brat is from is apparently overwhelmingly Republican, he will quite likely be a new Congressman come November. The Democrat is a sociology professor from the same school whom very few people (even at his college) even knew was running.


Jun-12-14 10:40 AM

Andrea, compromise is highly over-rated, and lately, quite a bit lopsided. Everybody wants the other side to compromise, and if they don't, they're labeled as extremists.

There is a place for compromise, but if in the process of compromising, you betray your core values, you are what Eric Cantor has become.

I wonder if we could ever quantify all the damage that has been done to this country as a result of Congress "just getting things done."

Sometimes it's better for them to do nothing at all.


Jun-12-14 9:55 AM

angeR69, I have occasionally cast my vote with checks and balances in mind, but at some point these people have to make some sort of compromise to get anything done. What I've seen in the last decade or so is more and more extremism on both sides of the political aisle and people who are too afraid of the political fallout to attempt the necessary compromise. I don't like fanatics of any stripe and I see too many fanatics in both political parties.

Jun-12-14 9:13 AM

While congress remains gridlocked the President is passing laws via executive order. When did the President (not just this President) obtain all this power?

I wonder if the primary with Cantor had a higher than 8 percent voter turnout like Minot?


Jun-12-14 8:43 AM

"What do you make of yesterday's upset?"

Like many things in politics, we'll have to wait and see. How many times have we seen some political figure with great promise rise to prominance only to be a disappointment equal in depth as was their meteoric rise in height?

A friend said of this that in ten years, we may find ourselves cheering the person who takes out Brat, who by then would be derided as a "weak-kneed, Democrat-light RINO".

But if this Brat guy really is some kind of libertarian, let's hope that he's just as adept at doing what libertarians are known for: slicing through the hyper-partisan BS and rising above the setpiece bi-partisan oligarchy that keeps holding this country back.

On a personal note, every time I read about this, I cannot help but think of bratwurst.


Jun-12-14 1:09 AM

You are familiar with the term "checks and balances", Andrea? Gridlock isn't a dirty word. It was intended. Yet the only way it really works is when you have representation that is willing to take on the fight.


Jun-12-14 1:01 AM

"I also don't have much use for the kind of polarized politics that have resulted in gridlock in Congress all too often over the past several years."

Polarized politics? Gridlock? Surely you jest. What I wouldn't do for more gridlock. Real gridlock. The House Republican leadership are as weak-kneed as they come. Sure, they like to pretend to fight. They make a show of fighting, only to buckle in the eleventh hour and promise to fight again another day. The cycle repeats over and over and over. Hopefully this is a sign that the voters are waking up, and seeing these establishment, Democrat-lite Republicans for who they really are.


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