Yesterday was primary day in several states, and the results prove one thing: as far as the Republican base is concerned, there’s no such thing as being too conservative. In one of the biggest political upsets in modern times, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost to David Brat, an underfunded Tea Party candidate who was anointed as the chosen one by the right-wing radio bubble.
What’s amazing about the loss is that Cantor can take credit for some of the right-wing’s most popular strategies. He pretty much single-handedly stopped House Speaker John Boehner from reaching a grand compromise on the budget with President Obama and consistently represented the interests of the hard-core right to the GOP leadership. By all accounts, he was maneuvering to replace Boehner at the first available opportunity, capitalizing on Boehner’s weak standing among ultra-conservatives.
That Cantor could lose his Virginia seat signals that the GOP is still in the fever swamps of politics. Cantor’s apparent sin was suggesting, for a change, that the Republicans actually govern by doing something about immigration reform. Unless reform means a fence 50-feet high, Cantor’s constituents are uninterested. (They were also uninterested in keeping the only non-Christian Republican in Congress.)
Of course, those types are the same people who would like to stop marriage equality in its tracks, make the world safe for homophobic bakers, and ensure that companies retain the right to fire on the basis of sexual orientation. In other words, the homophobic far right. For all the talk of reforming the party’s image, Cantor’s loss shows that Republicans have a long way to go before they return to anything resembling sanity.
That’s a good news, bad news proposition. The good news is that by embracing extremism, the GOP goes a long way to ensuring it will lose the White House again in 2016. (Welcome, President H. Clinton.) The bad news is that by embracing extremism, the GOP will keep trying to stop the inevitable from becoming reality, forcing the LGBT community to fight unnecessary fights.
Just to confuse the picture even more, to the south of Cantor’s district, another member of Congress identified by the Tea Party as a squish handily won his party’s nomination. Sen. Lindsey Graham was dogged by two of his opponents for being “ambiguously gay” and a “nancy boy.” Graham defeated six primary opponents by flooding the airwaves with ads testifying to how butch he was on national defense.
Still, both Graham’s and Cantor’s election results point to the same effect: you have to run as far to the right as possible to be safe. The elections also serve as an antidote to a rash of mainstream media stories that had proclaimed the victory of establishment Republicans and the dimunition of the Tea Party. Establishment Republicans may want to think they control the party, but the fact is, the party is out of control.