Earlier this week a humorous meme made its way around the Young Republican social media circuit featuring the image of a dinosaur in deep thought with the text: “Talk to YRNF Leaders or exit through the secret door.”
The inside joke reference was to then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s appearance before the YR national committee a month ago on Capitol Hill.
The Virginia congressman rubbed those assembled the wrong way when he slipped out of a back door at the conclusion of his talk instead of mingling for a few minutes with those who knock the doors, wave the signs and get cursed out while phone banking.
The scene could have only been more absurd had Monty Hall been standing behind the “secret door” next to a llama.
That US Senator Marco Rubio made a point of working the room a few minutes before especially made for a negative contrast.
Now don’t get me wrong, Cantor did not suffer one of the great political humiliations in modern times before of his Houdini act with a group of Young Republicans, few of whom were from Virginia.
However one can wonder how many other people who vote in his district also felt as if they were not feeling the love from their congressman.
So why did Cantor lose?
It wasn’t for lack of money, nor was it due to him spending so much on steakhouses (something the media have locked their fangs on like hungry dogs).
Cantor spent a reported five million dollars for renomination in a district he had won comfortably in his previous seven general elections. His opponent, economics professor Dave Brat, had spent less than a quarter million.
Cantor could have passed on Ruth’s Chris and blown his entire wad on media and it wouldn’t have compensated for the ten-point deficit. Cantor’s campaign spending had reached the point of diminishing returns; the voters were simply not buying what the congressman was selling.
Though the “blame” or “credit” pending on your perspective for Brat’s victory has been attributed by the lazy media to the TEA Party, the truth is the hydra of organizations claiming to champion the cause of the nebulous political movement had invested little in Brat’s campaign.
Brat did receive some “air support” from Cantor’s radio broadcast bête noire Mark Levin. Popular conservative commentator Laura Ingraham had “heels on the ground” in his district, speaking at a Brat rally the week before the election. The acerbic Ann Coulter also jabbed at Cantor for his “doormat” position on immigration reform.
While these high profile conservative media figures certainly helped put Brat on the map and provided him with “donated” publicity, their backing alone cannot explain the unprecedented defeat of a congressional majority leader.
And no the Democrats did not pull a Limbaugh-esque Operation: Chaos to throw the primary to a less electable Republican.
Cantor’s pollster peddled this story to the press, but this is more of a C.Y.A. move to protect his credibility and future business than the truth. In the same New York Post article the allegation was made, a Washington Post analysis of turnout showed that the relative surge of voters came from counties that voted Republican.
Nice try, carny pollster.
And no, Cooter from Dukes of Hazzard did not help Brat win either.
Cantor got sacked because during his time in Washington he forgot himself.
While Tip O’Neill’s philosophy on government is disagreeable to conservatives, nobody can disagree with his adage that “all politics is local.”
Cantor was defeated in large part because he staked out political positions that were reflective of a different congressional district than the one he represented, at least in name.
The voters of Virginia’s Seventh District wanted a conservative more than they wanted a Majority Leader.
Just as Icarus crashed upon flying too close to the sun, Cantor’s political feathers melted as he drew nearer the orange glow of John Boehner and left his constituency with little choice but to bring him down to earth.
While addressing a Rotary Club meeting in his Ohio congressional district, the speaker churlishly mocked those members of his own caucus who opposed amnesty.
Boehner was not taunting his colleagues with his unbecoming behavior, he was also insulting the GOP’s conservative base.
And they responded.
If there is one thing that all sides should agree on regarding the Brat primary victory, it reaffirmed that we live in a country where even the most powerful and entrenched political figures can still be held accountable by the people.
As one of the Old Dominion’s greatest sons believed, a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.
Cantor won’t need any secret doors to sneak out of anymore.