The mainstream media and cable news stations used terms like "shocking," "stunning" and an "earthquake" to describe House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Virginia primary loss to so-called tea party challenger David Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College. It has been said that this has not happened since 1899.
What made it so shocking is that it was unexpected. Cantor spent over $5 million while Brat ran a barebones campaign of about $200,000. Even though Brat's ideology resonates with the tea party philosophy of low taxes and smaller government, no national tea party organizations or Koch Brother's super pacs backed him financially. It seems even they believed Cantor's re-election was a forgone conclusion.
This amazing turn of events left the cable news networks scrambling for explanations. Some said it was the issue of amnesty in immigration reform that Cantor was accused of supporting. Well, Rachel Maddow repudiated that argument on her show pointing out that according to polls most Virginians are for immigration reform.
They said people were sick of congress and their leaders and we need to shake things up in DC. That may be true but why did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) win their primaries?
They said Leader Cantor did not visit his District enough in his campaign. In his press conference he rebuffed that theory by saying he went there every week.
Cantor's team had predicted a 34-point win according to their polls. He ended up losing by 11 points to a relatively unknown professor with little or no funding.
What happened? The pundits and Washington are baffled. Right wing talk radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, and conservative pundit Ann Coulter are all claiming some credit for this anomaly citing they brought up the amnesty issue as a talking point to Virginia voters. But I have a theory that no one on national or cable TV news or even talk radio has mentioned yet.
I base my hypothesis on an article I read on The Huffington Post (always ahead of the curve) and some Facebook posts on the election results. As usual, the mainstream media has neglected social media. The names will not be revealed to protect the innocent. One blogger claimed the tea party candidate got a LOT of help from Democratic voters. He called it "a brilliant and brutal case of political hardball, taken straight out of the GOTP playbook."
I believe he was referring to "Operation Chaos" employed by radio host, Rush Limbaugh in 2008 where he was encouraging his GOP listeners to vote in Democratic primaries for Hillary Clinton attempting to cause chaos in the process, elongating the bloody battle between her and Obama. Well, we know it failed and the long, entrenched battle actually strengthened Barack Obama and reached all 50 states which served to mobilize Democrats for the fall campaign.
But that's another story. It's the tactic that was interesting and controversial. I listened to Rush's program today to see if he had any inkling about a new Operation Chaos now being used by the Democrats, but all he talked about was how this election bombshell was won by the tea partiers, who are just ordinary, grassroots folks fed up with the DC establishment (and of course he bashed Obama.)
To bolster my analysis, here are some more quotes from Facebook:
- "7th District Democrats came out in droves to vote against Cantor."
- "It was an open primary. Dems and Independents came in and voted against Cantor to get rid of him."
- "We Democrats in the 7th District did this, now it will be a fair fight in November."
- "I personally know of several Dems who voted for Brat just to get Cantor out."
I had written a comment questioning how Democrats could vote in a Republican primary (we can't do that in PA.) I was told in Virginia you don't have to designate a political party affiliation when you register to vote. You can only vote in one party's primary but you don't have to declare what party you are. The Democrats had already nominated their candidate at a convention in June (Jack Trammell, also a professor from the same college as Brat) so there was no Democratic primary process.
Democrats were legally able to vote in the GOP primary and not even have to tell anyone of their affiliation. Therefore, this theory may be difficult to prove because all that is known is that there were 65,000 votes cast. And with all the talk about it being low turnout, it was almost 18,000 more than 2012 which was a presidential election year.
Another interesting coincidence is an article The Huffington Post published about a week before the Virginia primary. They shared an open letter from former Congressman Ben Jones (Cooter from The Dukes of Hazard TV show) to fellow Virginian Democrats in District 7. He urged them to vote against Representative Eric Cantor in the upcoming primary and for David Brat. Jones had lost a 2002 representative election bid to Cantor and was not happy with his campaign tactics.
Did his pleas influence Democrats to turn out and vote for Brat? Does that explain how the polls were so off? Were they only polling Republicans? Was immigration reform as big an issue as the conservative and liberal pundits would have you believe?
How did most of the mainstream media miss this opportunity to speculate on this conspiracy theory? I thought at least Rachel Maddow would have thought of it if not Rush Limbaugh. Is it because there is no data to be had that can prove it happened? Do not the admissions of bloggers on social media that they and droves of their Democratic friends voted for Brat count?
We may never know. It is all legal although I must say that I didn't approve of it when Rush did it. Some say turnabout is fair play. But to me it seems political parties should have their primaries with no interference from the opposing party.
At the same time, I would like the truth to be known and would hate to see immigration reform go down the drain because of a false narrative.
It is heartening to see an underdog with not much funding beat a wealthy incumbent. Maybe Ralph Nader is correct in his book Unstoppable about having left-right coalitions that can bypass the politicians in DC. Maybe that was what this election was, indirectly.
This primary election may have ripple effects we will feeling for years. Maybe we do have a voice at the grassroots level. Maybe we can shake up the old boys' club in Washington. Maybe the political elites will start to listen to the public. Maybe the left and right can come together and exert influence. Maybe the media will wake up to what is really going on in this country. Power to the people!