Dave Brat's Win over Eric Cantor Reminds Us of What the Tea Party Is --- and Isn't

By Freddoso, David | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, June 11, 2014 | Go to article overview

Dave Brat's Win over Eric Cantor Reminds Us of What the Tea Party Is --- and Isn't


Freddoso, David, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Washington went into shock this week when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., lost his primary to an unknown college professor named Dave Brat.

The result was unusual even among upsets because it came about without the slightest warning. Many candidates realize too late that they're in trouble -- it's hard to think of another one caught so completely unaware on election night as Cantor was.

Some blamed the immigration issue, which Cantor had spent a large sum trying to defuse, for his downfall. Others faulted the ambitious majority leader for neglecting his constituents. Others pointed to negative ads that backfired or hinted at a Democratic conspiracy to cross over and vote the GOP ballot.

Probably none of these explanations are sufficient. But one thing we know did not win the race for Brat was any sort of organized effort by the national Tea Party organizations that have proliferated since 2010.

That didn't stop them from claiming credit, of course. "We are proud to stand with Dave Brat in his election and look forward to working with him to reform Washington, D.C.," wrote FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe in a post-election email. Statements also came in quickly from the Tea Party Patriots Victory Fund (whose subject line had Brat's name as "Brent") and L. Brent Bozell of the Dump the Leadership Campaign. There's no shame in skipping a race like this one, but not one of these groups played a role.

The result has prompted many commentators to ask, "Is the Tea Party dead?" There is more than one way to answer. For some, Cantor's defeat means the answer is "no." A better answer might be, "I don't think 'Tea Party' means what you think it means."

Up to now, the media had been pronouncing the Tea Party dead mostly based on two races this year -- the always-doomed challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, and the North Carolina Senate primary -- just because a couple of national groups that embrace the Tea Party label were involved. …

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