The best gifts are complete surprises. They can awaken a soul deadened by the doldrums of predictability. Likewise, the best historical events are complete surprises. They interrupt the rhythms of a complacent society lulled by statistical predictability that define impossible odds.
I love when history is made. It feeds in me a sense of renewal and hope in the future. I love that these events belong to every American and are our rare opportunities to share a community experience as a nation. However, the war to capture the narrative that interprets what lessons we take away to define the historical event is a minefield and can lead to dangerous and erroneous conclusions. This process is now evident in the fallout from the first ever "getting primaried" defeat of a House Majority Leader. There is shock and awe as we have gone from a Cantor to a Brat. What does it mean and why did it happen? What are the Cantors' lessons?
There is the usual plethora of spin unfolding. Is it about immigration policy? David Brat was relentless in attacking Cantor's position on immigration as job busting, ambiguous, too nuanced and not conservative enough. As well, some are warning that Eric Cantor was not conservative enough in general, despite his voting 96 percent of the time with the Republican line. Which must also be interpreted that the Republican Party is not conservative enough and better lean even farther right or else more dominos will fall. A more conservative obstructionist anti-Obama Republican Party is hard to fathom, probably even for many Republicans.
Was it about who voted? Some say too many voted, some not enough voted, some say the wrong folks voted. Some say too many Democrats exploited the open primary and voted for David Brat. Some say too many Cantor voters sat out the election believing he was a shoe-in. Others saw a lesson in the demographics of social mobility in the large turnout of newbies in the district that do not have the local long view of history with Mr. Cantor and saw him as a Washington insider. Many have expressed bewilderment as to how Cantor's polling guru got it so wrong over the voters. There is too much irony and humor realizing that the same Republicans that have become the "no-science party" can get so outraged when the science of polling is bad science.
Was the lesson about Mr. Cantor? Did he stray too far from his constituents? Was it his being a member of crony capitalism, a "Chamber of Commerce Politician" and the most reliable advocate for the interests of Wall Street in Congress? Despite Eric Cantor's tight connection to the money elites and his huge advantage in raising campaign funds, there are serious questions over how and where he spent it. Some have suggested that this election proves no matter how much money there is in the game because of the Citizens United case elections cannot be bought. "David," a little known economics professor with a paltry sum of $200,000 beat "Goliath" with his $5million war chest.
The spin will continue. What is without doubt and the lesson best understood is that the public is anything but complacent and has no interest in status-quo politicians. Across the political spectrum, Americans are angry, and disenfranchised, loathe Congress, and distrust all branches of government, including the Supreme Court. Folks know that too much money in politics has perverted and emboldened politician's arrogance and is causing a populist tsunami backlash against our "corporate welfare-political entitlement complex." When only approximately 13 percent of eligible voters take the time to vote and can bring down a political icon there are serious issues for democracy. The stock market convulsing with the defeat of Eric Cantor symbolizes it best.
There is such a sense of outrage in the land with a force capable of both uniting and energizing folks to a common cause of bringing balance back to the nation or of further polarization. But for now, their Cantor is not singing and a Brat will replace him.