There is a close-quarter shooting technique known as the Mozambique Drill in which the shooter fires twice into the torso of a target, momentarily assesses the hits, then follows them up with a carefully aimed shot to the head to guarantee the target is dead and incapable of retaliating. With the alleged flagging popularity of the tea party, and alleged resurgence of establishment Republicans, many political pundits believed that for all intents and purposes, the extremist teabaggers were officially dead and would not be menacing the less-extreme conservatives in the GOP. The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at the hands of a libertarian posing as a teabagger on Tuesday should silence pundits who sounded the death knell of the tea party after 87 House Republicans joined Democrats to end the teabagger-Republican government shutdown and voted to raise the debt limit.
Apparently, even though Virginians elected a Democratic governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, voters in Cantor’s district agreed with libertarian candidate Dave Brat that Cantor was too liberal because he is not Ted Cruz. Now that Republicans in Congress will fear that the only safe electoral position is far to the right of a staunch conservative such as Cantor, they will certainly join extreme conservatives on most issues; at least as far right as the freakish libertarian who defeated him. Despite that Cantor only officially lost to Brat a day ago, there is no dearth of opinions as to why an unknown libertarian economics professor that Cantor outspent by as much as 30-to-one put an end to the tenure of the sitting House Majority Leader.
Brat, an economics professor and political novice, runs an Ayn Rand-based libertarian-funded program at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. Despite the reports that Brat won because he opposes immigration reform and hammered on Cantor for refusing to rule out comprehensive immigration reform in any iteration, it cannot be overstated that Brat’s criticism of Cantor’s votes to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown was an important factor in his victory. Even though Brat appears to be an extremist outlier in the conservative movement, his outrage that Cantor voted to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown is not outside the mindset of the majority of Republicans in Congress and it is down to Brat’s economic ideology.
Brat counts the atheist, immoral welfare queen Ayn Rand as his greatest intellectual hero, and receives big money from the banking sector to push Rand’s Draconian libertarianism on college economics students. In fact, he “has taught classes for a program sponsored by BB&T bank that aims to spread Ayn Rand’s principles to economics students. BB&T bank gave Brat a $500,000 grant to bring the Ayn Rand program to Randolph-Macon College and co-authored a paper titled ‘An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.'” That is right; “moral foundations of Ayn Rand.” It is about as absurd and extremist an idea as a lunatic teabagger-libertarian can possibly be.
Brat also seriously considers a pressing need for a church model that fully supports unrestrained capitalism warning that “if we don’t get on that, a new Hitler will surely arise.” Brat, like fellow Randian Paul Ryan, is at odds with the Pope’s criticism of unrestrained free-market capitalism driving the GOP culture of greed and crushing income inequality devastating the economy and the overwhelming majority of Americans. Any chance of raising the minimum wage, spending on children, reinstating unemployment benefits, spending on healthcare, or other domestic programs are all but finished, at least in the House. Establishment Republicans will do anything to avoid Cantor’s fate for his vote to end the shutdown and raise the debt limit that means there will not be one penny spent on domestic programs to satiate teabaggers opposed to any spending.
It is important to remember that the only way Republicans were able to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit was due to unanimous Democratic support. Brat’s position that Cantor committed a mortal sin by voting to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling was shared by 144 Republicans in the House and 18 in the Senate. He may be an extremist libertarian that teabaggers want to call their own, but he fits right in with the current crop of extremist “true conservatives” in Congress. Now that he took down Cantor, the 87 House Republicans who voted with Democrats will reconsider their treason against the extremist wing of the Republican Party and toe the extremist teabagger line.
One Republican, Representative Peter King (R-NY), warned that Cantor’s defeat will embolden Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to ramp up their push to bring governance to a full stop. He said, “My concern is a lot of things are going to be dead and pushed aside. I’m concerned that the Ted Cruz supporters, the Rand Paul supporters, are going to use this as an excuse to basically stop the government from functioning. Thank god there’s no debt ceiling bill coming up. Thank god there’s no way to shut the government down in the next few months. What Ted Cruz did last year was suicidal. We can’t allow Eric’s defeat last night allow the Ted Cruzes and Rand Pauls to take over the party, or their disciples to take over the party.”
King is correct in one sense; many Republicans will use Cantor’s defeat to continue keeping the government from functioning to hedge their electoral bets. However, as far as allowing Cruz, Paul, and their disciples to take over the party, establishment Republicans have no say in the matter now any more than in the past. Cantor’s loss either emboldened extremists to ramp up their insanity, or frightened less extreme Republicans to lurch farther right to avoid Cantor’s fate. It is safe to say that regardless what the Democratic-controlled Senate manages to pass, it is highly unlikely Republicans in the House will go along with anything they see as even remotely agreeing with Democrats; particularly if it includes spending that does not go directly to corporations of the rich.
The overwhelming consensus among political observers is that immigration reform is not going to happen now that Brat defeated Cantor for even thinking of supporting it regardless that it was very tepid and restricted support. Brat portrayed Cantor as a proponent of amnesty, which is a stretch of the imagination in any universe. House Speaker John Boehner had hoped to wait until Republicans weathered their primary challenges, but with Cantor’s defeat, the message he, and any other Republicans inclined to support even a watered-down Senate version, is “proceed at your own electoral peril.”
Even proponents of reform are likely to shift their tactics and will put pressure on President Obama to unilaterally change enforcement policies by demanding a giant wall and weaponized drone surveillance rather than take a chance of joining Eric Cantor by supporting any immigration reform package. In that sense, one primary defeat of a Republican leader eliminated any opportunity for Republicans to boost their bona fides with Latino and a majority of American voters. The teabaggers were vehemently opposed to immigration reform before Cantor’s loss, and by giving Brat the primary victory they effectively put an abrupt end to immigration reform.
Cantor’s loss to a relatively unknown libertarian extremist sent a message to Republicans in Congress that no-one is safe from teabaggers, or as they like to be called “true conservatives.” Many pundits are claiming that the tea party is now in complete control of the House, but the truth is they have run the place since the 2010 midterms and the Republican Party has no one to blame but themselves. John Boehner has not been in charge of his caucus since taking over as Speaker, and despite his poor attempt as a thespian to pretend he was outraged over the government shutdown and debt ceiling fiasco last October, he knew he had little choice but to follow the lead of Ted Cruz and House teabagger extremists.
Few Americans who care about this country will miss Cantor, but at least he had the good sense to join Democrats and end the disastrous government shutdown and vote to raise the debt limit. That he was defeated for voting to preserve the good faith of the United States and end the government shutdown does not portend good things for establishment Republicans or anything getting done in Congress. Whatever happens in the Democratically-controlled Senate, few Republicans will inflame teabaggers who demonstrated that the only safe Republican is one made in the image of extremist teabagger Ted Cruz or Ayn Rand libertarian Dave Brat.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.