The stunning upset defeat of House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) by Professor David Brat, an economist from Randolph-Macon College, in Tuesday’s Republican Primary has several takeaways for progressives besides envy and shame over why they do not directly take on the corporate Democrats.
First, among all the reasons for Cantor’s fall, there were the ones encapsulated in the Nation’s John Nichols’ description of Brat as an “anti-corporate conservative.” Repeatedly, Brat said he was for “free enterprise” but against “crony capitalist programs that benefit the rich and powerful.” David Brat pointed out that Cantor and the Republican establishment have “been paying way too much attention to Wall Street and not enough to Main Street.”
Professor Brat attacked the Wall Street investment bankers who nearly “broke the financial system,” adding the applause line: “these guys should have gone to jail. Instead of going to jail, where did they go? They went to Eric Cantor’s Rolodex.”
Second, Professor Brat spent about $230,000 to Eric Cantor’s $5.7 million. However, David Brat more than made up for the money deficit with energy, focused barbs and the shoe-leather of his committed followers. On election night, Brat made the point that progressives would do well to heed, as they obsess over big money in politics; “Dollars don’t vote,” he said, “people do.” Interestingly, Tea Party forces and donors claim they thought Cantor was so unbeatable that they didn’t even fund David Brat even though he had two national radio talk show hosts speaking well of him.
The third lesson from the decisive Cantor upset is not to embrace the political attitude that calls for settling, from the outset, for the least-of-the-worst choices. Progressives have expressed and harbored strong criticisms of the Democratic Party establishment and their adoption of corporatist policies, but election cycle after election cycle, fearful of the Republican bad guys, they signal to the Democrat incumbents that the least-of-the-worst is acceptable. Like the liberals they often consort with, progressives do not ask: “Why not the best?” with the plan that they will either win or at least pull their Party away from the relentless 24/7 grip of big-time corporatism.
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