Shaking up the republic

Concerned conservative voters spurred seismic shift in Congress

Political pundits are describing the defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., as a “political earthquake.”

But the rejection of the GOP establishment’s poster boy for a comparatively unknown Tea Party-backed college professor may be more aptly described as a “Lexington and Concord” moment – it was nothing short of a revolutionary moment in the fight to save this republic.

Repudiation of the House Majority Leader in Virginia’s District 7 congressional primaries is mainstream America’s message to the GOP’s ruling elite: Turn this ship around, or we will turn you out of office.

The magnitude of Tuesday’s vote cannot be overstated; no majority leader in U.S. history ever has suffered such a primary defeat.

A gleeful Democratic Party already has labeled the victor, 49-year-old economics professor Dave Brat, as a right-wing extremist because he supports values such as free enterprise, fiscal restraint and individual liberties.

When did mainstream American values become extreme?

The sad reality is that the ruling Republican elite have helped reinforce this notion through acts of duplicity and complicity with big-money interests, liberal policymakers and an out-of-control executive branch.

Not anymore. Middle America has had it.

“The grassroots is in revolt and marching,” said Brent Bozell, a veteran conservative activist and founder of ForAmerica.

Instead of smugness, the Democratic Party may want to take a cue from Cantor’s defeat and do some housecleaning of its own. The GOP is courageous enough to engage in self-governance. Are Democrats capable of the same?

For their part, conservatives finally are paying more attention to voting records than campaign rhetoric. Cantor outspent Brat by more than 10-to-1, but his weak stance on federal spending, debt and immigration were not simpatico with those in his district.

Not only did Cantor – who was in line to be House speaker – ignore his constituency, he even accepted an invitation this spring to an anti-Tea Party confab in Amelia Island, Fla., organized by the establishment-backed Republican Mainstreet Partnership PAC.

Clearly, money and power were Cantor’s priorities, not the interests of the everyday people concerned about the nation’s perilous trajectory.

In his victory speech, Brat told supporters, “Dollars do not vote – you do.”

That’s a message conservatives nationwide should take to heart.

Consider that less than 16 percent of South Carolina turned out for the GOP primary. Beltway insider U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was able to stave off six challengers and avoid a runoff by winning 59 percent of the vote. That’s a respectable margin, but far from overwhelming. What might have been if more conservatives had gotten off the couch?

There’s still hope in Mississippi, where Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel has a shot to unseat longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in a June 24 runoff.

Like other grassroots conservatives, McDaniel has been labeled an extremist while Cochran has been lauded as a “quiet pragmatist” who can “work across the aisle.” Hopefully the people of Mississippi will realize that Republicans who treasure quiet pragmatism and working across the aisle over bedrock conservative principles are only accelerating the demise of this once-great nation.

“I think the people are just ready for some major changes in this country,” Brat said. “And I was blessed. It’s a miracle.”

Maybe. Or perhaps it was the first signs of mainstream America waking from a long nap.

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