There is a reason that, upon hearing House majority leader Eric Cantor had lost his primary battle, Nancy Pelosi, hosting a dinner party, put down her glass of virgin's blood and allowed herself an evil cackle.
Because, despite all the Tea Party backslapping on social media last and this morning, this is not a good thing for them.
When the second highest ranking House member of your party is beaten in such a sound and surprising fashion, it is bad. It is very bad. And in this case, it's worse.
It allows a level of uncertainty to creep into what was otherwise a pleasantly dull November cakewalk. And it's never politically expedient to so openly display the party's vulnerable neck to the jackals on the other side of the aisle.
But this is a harbinger of shit to go down.
One of the remarks I saw was “Alright...another RINO bites the dust”, indicating that somehow Cantor, a long-time fiscal conservative and point man and key public face of the “smaller government” movement, was a “Republican in name only”.
That's a preposterous notion; a party is defined by the consensus mindset of it's members, not an ideological litmus test. Though there may be differences in philosophy, approach, effect, and priority, a party is a fluid mechanism in which solution is implemented, not a fixed club in which only the select get their say. And the binding component is deeper than any individual issue.
And frankly, one of the more capable forces for implementing the kind of change the Tea Party insists it wants was Cantor.
But it illuminates brilliantly the shallowness of the Tea Party viewpoint; the rubes who spent last night high-fiving themselves silly are about to fall through the scaffolding damaged by the fissures they, themselves, have caused.
They thought Cantor a traitor to their cause. And for no other reason, really, than his traitorous opinion, that maybe, just maybe, we should look at immigrants in our country as fellow human beings deserving of respect and allowed to contribute. Rather than mere statistics, or a danger to the mythical “lifestyle” they, the good white folk of 'murica, think they've earned, simply because their parents happened to schtup and squirt within a set of defined borders.
The ramifications of last night's election and Cantor's rather unceremonious ouster are subtle, but strong, and they give us a few indicators as to the future of the Republican Party.
Maybe not this election cycle. They may be able to salvage this year, although the gains they were looking for are almost surely beyond their reach.
But their long-term strength and influence is eroding. The party, and the conservative movement, is becoming too factionalized to maintain effectiveness.
And the Tea Party, with their relentless self-centered approach to governance, and their complete inability to attack any problem in any way other than unilaterally and personally resonant, is to blame.
Mind you, it's not their ideology alone, twisted and hateful as it is, but in their refusal to accept that they live in a democracy, and compromise is an essential part of the process.
(note to phraseology nits: yes, I know technically we live in a republic, not a true democracy, but when discussing such things in macro-terms, “democracy” refers to any system in which the people have a voice, whether direct, as in a pure democracy, or indirect, as in a republic...and you would know that if the stick wasn't so far up your ass it's bending your ear canal to the point of blockage)
The grown-up wing of the Republican party has spent handsome chunks of morning news time trying to spin this one. Cantor was a bad candidate, he was over-confident, he'd lost touch. He was ham-fisted and duplicitous in how he presented his views on immigration reform. Which happened to be in the news on election day due to the sudden influx of unaccompanied immigrant minors and the looming issues, humanitarian and political, they represent.
They also point out that there was little outside money brought in, although Cantor's opponent, Dave Brat, had become a media darling, and was being touted, endorsed, and given air time by several second-level conservative broadcasters, Laura Ingraham chief among them.
They cite the South Carolina primary, in which an ass-clenched Lindsey Graham defeated several opponents who were armed with boatloads of outside money and resources, in spite of his support of immigration reform. They compared it to Brat's campaign, which was on a shoestring budget, and, in fact, was never considered a target by the Tea Party itself, which had minimal presence in Virginia, while making a strong and concerted push to get rid of Graham. Clearly, this was a case of a perfect storm, a bad candidate, news cycle timing, and low voter turnout, rather than a fractured and crumbling party.
All of which does have some merit.
But a few have also alluded to Cantor's unseating as at least partly due to the damaging cumulative effect of the “just say 'NO'” faction of their party. New York Republican Peter King pulled no punches, saying “The results tonight will move the party further to the right, which will marginalize us further as a national party”.
Frankly, the impact of this development on the immediate political future is probably limited. There will be no rightward lurch in terms of political arithmetic and House voting. The Republican's successful gerrymandering has all but assured the district of staying solidly Republican, regardless of who runs on the red ticket.
Granted, Brat is a theorist with very little tether to the real world. His papers will probably expose a few things that the political pros, sure to ascend into the seventh district of Virginia, can exploit. And he appears to be a thundermug of religious zealotry and rigid economic theory.
But district 7 is demographically different than it was when Cantor was first elected, much more conservative, with religion playing a bigger role in the political process. No one ever lost the hillbilly vote by mentioning Jesus and preaching the good ol “I got mine, sucks to be you” gospel.
While the vote will stay the same, the message sent with this election is pretty stark.
Cantor had, until a few months ago, been one of the Young Guns of the Republican party, always positioned to the right, politically, of Speaker Boehner, and a trusted liaison to and reliable voice for the more conservative members of the House.
Now, Eric Cantor is being told he's not conservative enough for the Republican party.
If there were ever a political “Dude, WTF?” moment, this is it.
I've long maintained the inherent corrosive nature of the conservative movement would eventually cause them to turn on and devour themselves.
Last night was only the appetizer.
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