Cantor lost, what happens now?

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

11 June 2014

What does it mean when your fair-haired boy loses?

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.

Eric CantorThe 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.

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  1. Mark D.

    Excellent points, Tom. Meeting at the center is the best foot forward, not “I told you so” politics.

    • Tom Dougherty

      In politics the center wins nationally and extremes carry the day locally.

  2. Ezymeetz

    Politics like religion divides nations and people because we all have beliefs and dogmas. What we can do is watch and act according to what we think is right.

    • Tom Dougherty

      Great point. I have written for years on the power of belief. We need to remind ourselves that beliefs don’t have to be true to be powerful. They have power simply because we hold them.

  3. Corbin

    “Meet at the center” is all fine and good for national politics. But as Tip O’Neill stated so many times, “All politics is local.”

    Cantor’s upset proves this point very well. I think that Cantor was so focused on national politics he forgot about his base (in a highly Republican district). A more centrist candidate in this district would have lost by much greater margin than Cantor.

  4. Mike Oz

    The fundamental question both parties always ask themselves is what do they really represent. The Republican party is split. For the sake of the GOP, it’d better hope this is an isolated incident based on low voter turnout and a single-issue candidate (immigration).

    • Tom Dougherty

      The Va race was not even the most extreme example, Mike. The press has picked up on the immigration issue simply because it is divisive. I think the most interesting part of this race was the Chamber of Commerce views.


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