Dr. Bob Holsworth, a longtime observer and prescient analyst of Virginia’s politics who has moderated many statewide debates, has seen it all in the Commonwealth.
But on Wednesday morning, Holsworth told Breitbart News that Dave Brat’s shocking defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was a clear sign that working-class populism against Washington’s permanent political class is on the rise — and Virginia’s politicians better be on red alert. Holsworth said Cantor’s loss was “the most amazing political upset since Doug Wilder was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1985” to become the first black politician to be elected statewide in Virginia.
And Tea Party, working-class populism (call it “Main Street populism) was responsible for it. Brat’s win was a true grassroots victory. He raised just over $200,000 to Cantor’s $5.4 million while outside professional groups on the right did spend money on the race as they have done in others. What Brat had, though, was priceless: a message that resonated with “Main Street” workers in the seventh district against an opponent whose policy preferences personified the cronyism of Wall Street.
“I think that last night demonstrated to every GOP member of the General Assembly the ongoing clout of Tea Party populism in Virginia,” Holsworth concluded.
Holsworth said Cantor lost for two basic reasons — his willingness to work with President Barack Obama on immigration and completely losing touch with his district’s voters, which included how the seventh congressional district’s voters felt on “amnesty.”
“Brat effectively portrayed [Cantor’s] support for some version of immigration reform as an unacceptable partnership with President Obama,” Holsworth told Breitbart News.
During the final weeks of the campaign, Brat said the primary was the “last chance” for amnesty opponents to send Congress a message and stop amnesty. Cantor sent anti-amnesty mailers to voters in his district, but Brat repeatedly tied massive amnesty legislation to the economic stagnation many Virginias know too well. He repeatedly said he was against amnesty legislation and massive increases in high-tech visas at a time when there is no proof that there is a shortage of American high-tech workers because it lowers wages for American workers. That allowed him to appeal to the working-class voters who then found Brat’s broader message against Wall Street cronyism more compelling.
“The central policy issue in this race has become Cantor’s absolute determination to pass an amnesty bill. Cantor is the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty,” Brat declared in a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed. “This is not the Republican way to fix our economy and labor markets.”
Cantor also had “deficiencies as a retail politician,” and Holsworth said that rank-and-file “Republican populists viewed him as a corporate-oriented, Brooks Brothers elitist who represented what they increasingly disliked about career politicians.”