I, like lots of other people, am still struggling to understand the importance of Eric Cantor's defeat in the Republican primary by a candidate to his right. I am convinced that this is a hugely significant development. For now, I think there are three lessons embedded in the upset that are relevant for the Centrist Project:
Digesting the Cantor Upset
1. Grossly underfunded candidates can win. Cantor had incumbency, name recognition, national stature, and a 10-1 fundraising advantage over Brat and voters still threw him out. That should be very encouraging to us as we look to support "long shot" candidates.
2. If people get fed up enough, they will do something. Cantor's sin, shockingly, was being too moderate. That's obviously not a sentiment that centrists share. But we can inspire the same passion. We should position our insurgent centrist candidacies as referendums on the dysfunctional status quo in DC. We should be able to tap into the same kind of anger and discontent, only from a different set of voters.
3. Moderate, pragmatic candidates need more support and protection than ever. After the Cantor defeat, Republican candidates are going to be constantly looking over their right shoulders; presumably Democrats will be looking over the left. We need to provide an intellectual home and base of support for politicians willing to look straight ahead.
And can we just pause to appreciate that two professors from the same college will be running against one another in the general election? That is going to add some energy to the faculty meetings!
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