Why Eric Cantor Really Lost – A Grassroots Revolt

            Eric Cantor’s primary loss to Dave Brat has sent shock waves through United States politics.  Cantor, the Republican majority leader of the House lost 28,902 to Brat’s 36,120.  Cantor spent $5 million ($173. per vote) and Brat spent $122,000 ($3.33 per vote).

            So, why did Cantor lose?  The major reason is the low turnout.  There are 473,032 registered voters in Virginia’s 7th congressional district.  In 2012, Cantor received 222,983 votes in the General Election.  Just as Cantor deserted the country by caring more about Israel than about America, and doing his utmost to prevent the government from functioning, the voters responded in kind, abandoning him at the polling place.

            But the real reason is that campaigns, in both the Republican and Democratic parties, have become “professionalized.”  Candidates hire professional campaign management organizations, most based in Washington, D.C., to manage and run their campaigns. This strategy is not only expensive (where do you think Cantor spent his $5 million?) but it cuts the voters out of the process.

            Increasingly, candidates are marketed like products.  Special interests provide copious amounts of money and voters are reduced to the role of consumers, allowed to choose on Election Day between either the Republican or Democratic brand of candidate.  The voters are frozen out of the political process as a result. 

            These professionalized campaigns are not only expensive, but, run out of Washington with a permanent staff of itinerant operatives, they know little to nothing about the local politics of the races they manage. They depend on polling. The late Speaker of the House, the late Tip O’Neill, once famously said, “All politics is local.”

            As a result of this professionalizing of campaigns, the exclusion of the voters results in defective strategies and low voter turnout.  In low turnout elections, anything can happen.  Had the media had a broader view of events on Tuesday, June 10, 2014; it would have noticed that the voter turnout in New Jersey was even more anemic.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf