Eric Cantor's Surprising Primary Loss May Spell Trouble For The NSA

from the every-little-thing dept

The DC political world was completely shocked last night as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary against a relatively unknown and completely underfunded challenger named David Brat. His Wikipedia page was set up only yesterday and initially had just two sentences, before the primary victory, leading people to suddenly start filling in more information. Just hours before the victory, the Washington Post had written: “the question… is how large Cantor’s margin of victory will be.” Not surprisingly, the Post has now completely erased all traces of its Dewey Defeats Truman article, replacing it with one about Cantor’s loss. As the political press tends to do, this morning everyone’s digging for the “reasons” behind this unprecedented loss (no majority leader has ever lost a primary apparently) — though almost all of the analysis is meaningless. Searching for a larger message in all of this is just silly — as there are plenty of counter-examples. Whether it was about “the tea party,” “immigration,” “bipartisanship,” “fed up with DC” or whatever… it doesn’t matter. Politics can sometimes be a bit more complicated and nuanced than the single narrative.

But, on issues of importance around here, it’s worth noting that Cantor’s loss could be bad news for the NSA in a big way. Cantor was a key part of the House leadership that was instrumental in supporting the NSA and blocking any meaningful attempts at reform. Rather than looking into what the NSA was doing, Cantor wanted to lead an investigation into Ed Snowden. It is believed that Cantor was also a key part of the effort last year to make sure that the Amash Amendment failed.

In contrast, one of Brat’s campaign platforms was the following:

Dave believes that the Constitution does not need to be compromised for matters of national security. He supports the end of bulk phone and email data collection by the NSA, IRS, or any other branch of government.

While some are trying to spin Brat’s victory as a vote against the NSA, that seems unlikely (and again, seems to be people spinning this story to their own particular narrative). It appears that Cantor’s loss (and, rest assured, this was much more a Cantor loss than a Brat win) was for many reasons, and it seems likely that the NSA was pretty far down the list. Obviously, assuming Brat goes on to win in the fall (now very likely), as a freshman Representative, he won’t be able to do all that much. But just the fact that a very powerful ally of the NSA has lost to someone critical of the NSA is helpful in pushing back on the NSA’s control over Congress.

Of course, there is one caveat in all of this. While Cantor cannot appear on the ballot (such as, by running as an independent) in the fall election, thanks to Virginia’s sore loser law, he could potentially mount a write-in campaign. And, also, while the Democratic contender in the fall is considered to have absolutely no chance against any Republican listed, it is worth remembering that people also said Brat had no chance against Cantor. Either way, even if this wasn’t a referendum on the NSA, it could be bad news for the NSA in losing one of its most powerful allies.

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Comments on “Eric Cantor's Surprising Primary Loss May Spell Trouble For The NSA”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. An independent political movement of ANY persuasion would be a good thing, a fine thing, a healthy thing. But the Tea Party is not: it’s the unwitting tool of very wealthy and very powerful people. So while those in the trenches may earnestly believe in its ideology, and they’re certainly entitled to those beliefs and to act on them if they so choose, they are merely pawns being moved on the chessboard to suit the whims of their masters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

For instance, take the issue of gay rights. The vast majority of the Tea Party are good, hard working, heterosexual, middle class Christians many of them living in areas there is no significant homosexual population. This is an issue that really has no significant impact on them. Taxes, Social Security, Healthcare, on the other hand ARE issues that directly affect them. Yet the wealthy manipulators play to their religions beliefs, claim that homosexuals are destroying the American family, and make gay rights a hotbed issue for them as a distraction away from the things that they should care about. The puppet masters don’t really care about gay rights either. They care about using it to manipulate people who are ill informed into supporting positions that are against their own best interests.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I don’t see how that is different than what either the Democrats and Republicans already do…

But disruption is disruption, and we need some of that in this country.

There are leaders, and there are followers. Most people are followers, and we definitely need some better leaders.

Rather than complain about it, you best actually do something about it.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There’s no such thing as a free market. It’s baked into the Constitution in Article I, Section 8. Where there are anti-competitive practices, the market isn’t free.

We do need SOME patent and copyright, but not to the point where it strangles innovation and stifles competition.

But as I said there ain’t and never has been a free market.

who cares (profile) says:

An analyst suggested that one of the reasons of the discrepancy between poll and result is that while people would vote more likely for Cantor the problem was that they actually had to go out and vote. Which they didn’t due to a combination of it not being a general election year and that huge lead resulting in people reasoning they didn’t have to go out to vote since there would be enough people voting in favor.
Add in a smaller but more active base for Brat and you get the poll result.

In 2012 for the general election 223k (out of 398k) people voted for Cantor.
In the same year (2012) primary 37k (out of 47k) voted for Cantor.
this primary (2014) saw 29k (out of 65k) vote for Cantor.

The numbers seem to corroborate that interpretation, seeing that even with an 8k loss in voters with a 47k voter turnout Cantor would have won.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

A decent analysis.

While the Tea Party has received a lot of focus as a motivator for Brat’s turnout, I’ll also point out that Cantor was the last Jewish Republican in Congress. Here in Texas, the state speaker of the house is a Jewish Republican named Joe Strauss. His speakership is maintained by a coalition of non-crazy Republicans and willing-to-hold-their-nose Democrats. Every session, there’s an attempt to oust him as speaker, with fringe Republicans arguing that the position needs a good Christian in it.

I suspect if we scratch the surface in Virginia, we’ll find a bit of a similar campaign in the evangelical churches.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It was about the government shutdown. Tea Party didn’t end up getting their way so they are now offing key people like they said they would to show that they weren’t bluffing about primarying people. It’s about an extremist fringe minority trying to hijack the process.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I suspect you make up lots of stuff. Christians are not against Jews as they are God’s chosen people; but like any good Democrat, you like to cry racism whenever possible. I am quite happy that people are crying wolf, i.e. racism, so much these days as it has pretty much lost its ability to sway anybody. Unfortunately, when real racism occurs, all this crying wolf will have deadened peoples reaction to it. But don’t let that stop you from towing the party line.

Whatever says:

baggery and other things

Well, this is proof, if nothing else, that well funded and strident Tea Party people can still win something! The Baggers certainly do appear to be good at “getting out the vote”, as the primary vote count is way up this year. He lost a bit, but not enough to have lost the election on that alone, he appears to have lost it on the increase in voters.

As for the NSA, all I can say is “you wish”. We all know that a campaign platform, especially from a bagger, is just that – a platform for election, not reality. Get him elected (not certain) and put him in power for a while and he will strap on the congressional feed bag and get back to wishy-washy politics as usual.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: baggery and other things

Well, this is proof, if nothing else, that well funded and strident Tea Party people can still win something!

Except he wasn’t well funded. But, details. Also, key “tea party” challengers lost in almost every other primary.

The Baggers certainly do appear to be good at “getting out the vote”, as the primary vote count is way up this year.

Vote was slightly up. Not way up.

As for the NSA, all I can say is “you wish”. We all know that a campaign platform, especially from a bagger, is just that – a platform for election, not reality.

Agreed. But you conveniently ignore the key point made in the post: it wasn’t about Brat. It was about Cantor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: baggery and other things

I agree with most of this. Teabaggers tend to show up in DC full of fire and brimstone- only to discover the enormity of the machine and how little they understand about the way things work. Brat will be reviled by the Republican establishment and consigned to meaningless or even humiliating roles and assignments. So he will either have to bus tables for the R’s or become a nutty outlier like Cruz, who is relevant only due to his laughably extreme views and unsupported opinions.

Losing Cantor was a blow to the NSA, but gaining Brat is a neutral at best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Any upside from this is more than outweighed by the tragedy of having another delusional Ayn Rand groupie in Congress. I’m all for smaller government, but it must be achieved gradually and intelligently, not reflexively as extremist libertarians like Brat advocate. Under their approach, existing gross inequality will be cemented into place and we’ll have an even harder time correcting it. We need more people to support things like than we need more Rand fans in government. We need more focus on putting the Rep(resentation) back into Republic than we need people who just want to throw government in the garbage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Thing is, the self proclaimed small government people are not really in favor of a small government. In fact, they produce a larger government at every opportunity. What they really mean by “small government” is one that does nothing to support those most in need and does everything for big money – in a bizarro Robin Hood sort of way.

mikey4001 (profile) says:

As long as we’re speculating, it may be worth pointing out that Virginia has open primaries. Here in the South, we have a long tradition of “crossing over” to vote against incumbents in a primary. this is particularly true in districts/races where one side has no real chance of winning the general election. Someone like Cantor could conceivably draw that sort “anyone would be better” crossover turnout.
A textbook example of this would be Cynthia McKinney’s defeat by Denise Majette in 2002 for a House seat from Georgia. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (then beat ’em from inside).

TestPilotDummy says:

Barring the silicone chips don’t have backdoors (at the manufacture doping level), and the software isn’t wormy, virusy, and the local leo doesn’t block the poll watchers, I would have to say this sends a big message.


leave people alone to seek happiness, quit goin after gibson guitar wood, raw milk, cheese wood, wild pigs, while pushing carbon tax, sustainability Agenda 21, and spying on everything so you can poke monkey wrenches into American’s happiness.

This country will bounce back like a Forrest fire if the feds would stop being oath breaking f***ing retards

Anonymous Coward says:

This is exactly why politicians shouldn’t be involved in any law making. It’s like the cops deciding who they can arrest and why. An oxymoron at best, complete and utter life-altering nonsense at worst.

Every single thing has evolved in the past hundreds of years, except for politics, which remains the same old archaic system that never really worked that well in the first place but is there to protect the people that run it, protected by the people that run it.

It makes no sense and needs to be completely rethinked.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

We are entering a new era, though, where the influencing industry has moved very far away from the people and the factions have turned to pure ad hominem instead of discussing politics around elections.

Some day elections turn too much into “American Idol” and the influencing industry too much into an oligarchic dictatorship.

When people start to want politicians out of lawmaking, I guess that level has been reached.

It is not long ago I heard someone suggest removing elections and making them into a random draw among the citizens. That seems hard to do but I am beginning to see the appeal of such a solution for filling at least a good chunk of the political positions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“This is exactly why politicians shouldn’t be involved in any law making”

As if they are now …

Most laws today and in the recent past are/were written by PACs and lobbyists, most so called law makers do not even read the bills before giving their stamp of approval.

“It’s like the cops deciding who they can arrest and why”

As if this is not happening … really?

Chris ODonnell (profile) says:

“Dave believes that the Constitution does not need to be compromised for matters of national security. He supports the end of bulk phone and email data collection by the NSA, IRS, or any other branch of government.”

And Obama was going to give us the most transparent administration in history. Political positions from unelected leaders are meaningless. Once in the house, he’ll be a peon with no power, and he’ll fall in line if he hopes to accumulate any power.

zip says:

"too big to fail" politicians

I’m a bit disappointed at all the nay-sayers here. The issue should not be about David Brat’s stand on “hot button” emotional topics — it’s all about getting rid of these “too big to fail” politicians instead of falling for their “divide and rule” scare tactics.

But it would be premature to celebrate this as a complete victory against the sort of entrenched, “follow the money”-type politicians of which Eric Cantor serves as prime example. Does anything really think that Eric Cantor will pack his bags, leave Washington, and go back to doing what he did before he entered politics?

Not a chance, the Golden Rule is: “once a Washington insider, always a Washington insider.” There’s little doubt that Cantor will end up becoming a lobbyist, or CEO of some trade association with a Washington, D.C. office. He might even start his own “consulting” business – the kind of “back-door lobby” in which companies pay top dollar in the hope of landing lucrative government contracts.

Either way, Cantor will almost certainly cash-in on his years of servitude to big-money interests — just like the vast majority of career politicians that leave office.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

More of the same

Just because Eric Cantor is gone does not mean there are no others to take his place. There’s lots of people who would willingly give the NSA anything it wants, wrapped up in a pretty package and bow.

That’s not the bad part, which is the Tea Party now has a official representative in Congress. That’s very bad news. You liked the government shutdown? You like the “Benghazi” shouting? Well, score one for them.

As for Brat’s ‘platform’, I’m sure that Washington will cure him of any idealism very quickly and he’ll change his position once he learns the ropes.

They all do.

zip says:

re: last year's government "shutdown"

Last year’s government “shutdown” seems to get dragged out repeatedly as a case against electing any “tea party”-oriented person. But the government “shutdown” was to a large degree a farce. Obama could have worked to minimize the damage, but instead went to great lengths to make it as painful as possible for as many people as possible. For instance, law enforcement worked overtime –and extra security were hired– to blockade and patrol the (previously) open-air parks, federally-owned roads (such as the Foothills Parkway) and urban bicycle trails, to enforce the closure and make sure no one used these places which were normally open and unsupervised. Private businesses located on government land (and accessible to public streets) were ordered to shut down and immediately vacate for no reason (in the case of the Pisgah Inn, literally at gunpoint in a massive show-of-force when the owner refused)

Many National Parks in the western states are actually quite profitable, and a significant source of foreign exchange revenue during the tourist season, for both the government as well as the local economy. Their closure might have seemed extremely counter-productive, but that was the whole point – it was punitively used as a tool of retaliation, and sadly, the propaganda campaign worked. The Republicans might have caused the shutdown, but a Democratic President greatly exacerbated the damage by using it as a cruel politically-motivated weapon against the citizenry. And it worked. The democrats successfully painted themselves as victims, rather than scheming co-perpetrators of that childish fiasco.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: re: last year's government "shutdown"

“Obama could have worked to minimize the damage”

Yeah, he could’ve caved and given those idiots everything they whined about in their temper tantrums.

“but instead went to great lengths to make it as painful as possible for as many people as possible.”

Yeah, it was not Congress that screwed over everyone with their shutdown mania – it was the prez, cause he didn’t give in to childish demands.

Your bizarro world view is intriguing, can I subscribe to your newsletter?

zip says:

Re: Re: re: last year's government "shutdown"

Then please explain why rural highways like the Foothills Parkway would need to be shut down, blocked off, and vigorously guarded 24/7 against “trespassers” — not even allowing local residents to pass through — all because the government “ran out of money”?

Why did so many roads need to be forcibly shut down — at considerable expense to the taxpayers — when it would have cost nothing to allow them to remain open?

FM Hilton (profile) says:

There's still hope, though

After posting my comment, I learned that this is a primary, and that Brat has to succeed in the general election to actually win the seat that Eric Cantor lost.

I just hope that the Democratic party gives his opponent all the money they can and the tools to defeat him with.

We really don’t need another conservative Tea Party member in Congress. We’ve had enough of them and their antics, which have cost us very dearly, both in money and time. We can’t afford this.

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