Thursday, June 26, 2014

Eric Cantor vs. David Brat: Distinctions Without Differences

By Laurence M. Vance

The stunning defeat of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary election by political newcomer and professor at Randolph-Macon College, Dave Brat, has left political pundits scratching their heads. No primary challenger has ever ousted a sitting House Majority Leader since the position was created in 1899.
Yet, the Sunday after his defeat, Cantor said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he will vote for Brat even though he campaigned against Cantor as an “ideological sell-out.” Cantor stressed the importance of keeping the Republican Party unified. He said it was a priority to keep his congressional seat in Republican hands. “I want a Republican to hold this seat. Of course. Of course,” Cantor said. “This is about making sure that we have a strong Republican majority in the House. I’m hopeful we’ll take it in the Senate, as well. I’m very optimistic about that.” He also said that Republican control of the House and Senate will provide a “real check” on the Obama administration.
Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and echoing Cantor, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus “predicted that the GOP majority in the House will grow, adding that Senate control is within reach.” “I think this year is going to be a great year for our party,” he said. Despite the Cantor loss, the GOP is not divided “at all.”

Since Brat won his primary election, it has been pointed out that he claims to be “a free-market guy,” has written papers on Adam Smith, supports “the end of bulk phone and email data collection by the NSA,” has referred to the libertarian Cato Institute, acknowledges having been influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand and “appreciates Rand’s case for human freedom and free markets,” and is director of his Randolph-Macon College’s BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program. But Brat also opposes current immigration-reform efforts, wants to “secure the border,” believes that allowing more people into America would “lower wage rates for the working person,” and maintains that “peace is best preserved through a strong national defense.”

The Cantor/Brat election is symbolic of a larger and more important question: Do political distinctions among Republicans mean that there is any philosophical difference between them? Does it really matter whether the 7th congressional district of Virginia is represented by Eric Cantor or Dave Brat? Does it really matter whether the House Majority Leader is Eric Cantor or the newly elected Kevin McCarthy?

When you ignore Republican pronouncements that they are the party of the Constitution; their mantra of “free enterprise, private property, and limited government”; and their libertarian rhetoric about the free market, lower taxes, fewer regulations, and less spending, and instead look at what they actually do — the legislation they introduce, support, and pass; the causes they champion; and the actions they take when they exercise control over one or more parts of the government — what you find are distinctions without differences.


Consider just these ten issues: