Last night, Representative Eric Cantor lost to Tea Party’s David Brat in Virginia. Upsets like this happen, but they are usually not big news.
It is a difficult time for Republicans. A difficult time for the Republican Party too. I am trying to look at this from the macro level and not the micro level because that is my job as a strategist. I am interested in not what happened so much as what it means.
The US has always been a nation divided by politics. As I was growing up, I heard the party on the outside of pure power referred to as the loyal opposition. Recently, the word loyal does not apply. The opposing parties in the governance of the United States seem willing to die on the sword of opposition and contention rather then compromise their way to governance. In a personal view, it is a perfect example of preferring to be right rather than happy.
So, in the pursuit of opposition, the Republican Party has embraced the most extreme elements of the electorate. As a result, it has mobilized a voter segment that is akin to holding a tiger by the tail. Rattle the sabers of extremism and opposition and they will indeed vote. In these cases, they will not vote for the party candidate. They will vote for the most extreme voice in the race.
So what does it mean? It means that the Republican establishment needs to move more to the center and not the extreme right. The party needs to mobilize its centrist base or face losing more seats to the Tea Party. Otherwise, it will ensure that whomever the Democrats nominate to succeed President Obama will win because the Republican candidate will have to represent the fleeting brand of Tea Party, not of traditional Republican values.
The GOP is at a crossroad. Does it want to be continually disruptive or does it wish to return to power.