June 11, 2014 -- Establishment Republicans are in shock over the Virginia primary loss by GOP House majority leader Eric Cantor at the hands of Dave Brat, an economics professor and Tea Party-backed political novice.
Many conservatives chalked up Cantor’s defeat to his support for immigrat ion reform, which they interpret as “amnesty and citizenship for lawbreakers.” And Brat made remarks ciritical of immigration reform. But a survey released by the liberal Public Policy Polling found some 70 percent of voters in Cantor’s district favor reform that includes securing the border, barring businesses from hiring illegals, but also allowing undocumented aliens a way to legally remain in the U.S.
Establishment Republicans must understand the deeper causes for Cantor’s defeat and learn lessons that will better ensure general election victories. And those who back candidates like Brat must understand what errors they must avoid in order to avoid election defeats.
Such an understanding begins with a recognition that the GOP is in a three-way civil war.
The corrupt Republican establishment
Scary social conservatives
Real libertarian radicals
David Brat’s formula
Winning candidate Dave Brat might offer a
winning paradigm. Brat the economics professor campaigned on the economy, on the problem of the skyrocketing federal debt, and on government direction and regulation. Brat has written about Adam Smith and Milton Friedman, and even about moral foundations based in Ayn Rand. While not an Objectivist, he has been influenced by Atlas Shrugged.
He is also a strong supporter of the Tenth Amendment, which states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Wow, a politician who takes the Constitution seriously! And this is an appeal to a principle that voters can appreciate. It is not the usual pandering and the usual mealy-mouthed promising that treats voters like spoiled children who the candidates will offer to spoil even more in return for votes.
Brat has a Master of Divinity in Theology and is no doubt socially conservative. But pushing a religion-based agenda so far has not been his campaign priority. He seems to appreciate that no one’s personal values are safe if the government continues to grow and to control every aspect of our lives.
Will Brat continue to avoid the errors made by so many social conservatives? That has yet to be seen, but he does seem to have a winning paradigm.
Dedicated to liberty
In light of Cantor’s defeat, Establishment Republicans must understand that they are part of the problem, at best slowing the nation’s decline with their support of the current corrupt regime. They should remember that George W. Bush contributed to this regime with expansions of the welfare and regulatory state. They should remember the defeats of their standard-bearers McCain and Romney. And thus they should seek out and support principled candidates like Dave Brat
Yes, passing—and repealing!—laws takes political skill. Compromises and deals will need to be made. But only if establishment Republicans abandon the establishment and if social conservatives give priority to limiting government, only if all GOP factions dedicate themselves to the principles of liberty can the party triumph and the country be saved.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.