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
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.