Considering it’s the first time a sitting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in a primary since 1899, and Dave Brat was out-spent $5.4 million to $200,000, Brat pulled off our biggest political upset since George Nethercutt beat then-Speaker Tom Foley in 1994. The first time a House Speaker had been unseated since 1862.
By now most of us have already read and celebrated plenty of analysis of Brat’s statement win on Tuesday. But there are three things to learn from this upset that have largely gone unnoticed elsewhere, and provide a necessary blueprint for conservatives going forward.
1. Stop Splitting the Conservative Vote.
How many times have we seen multiple conservatives split the vote in the primary, only to hand the election to the establishment?
Been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt.
That would’ve also happened in Virginia’s 7th district primary on Tuesday, except a humble patriot named Peter Greenwald stepped aside a few months ago to coalesce support behind Brat. Greenwald, who has been serving his country since 1985, did what most of our other candidates are unwilling to do. He put honor and the cause ahead of ego and ambition. His willingness to put his children’s future first gave Brat time to focus on Cantor. If Greenwald doesn’t step aside, it’s quite likely Brat doesn’t win.
We need more candidates willing to do the similarly honorable thing in the future, or we’ll have to make this decision for them if they don’t. For example, right now the establishment is already determining whom their candidate will be 2016. They won’t run three candidates, and never do. They’ll run one. Meanwhile, we’ll run five-to-seven, and then slowly watch them pick each other off until it’s too late. We cannot allow that to happen again. Instead of getting emotionally or financially attached to a candidate going nowhere, we need to do the honorable thing and follow Greenwald’s lead.
Our futures cannot afford for the Republican Party establishment to blow another election in 2016.
2. We want high turnout primaries.
The conventional wisdom has always been lower turnout primaries helps the more principled candidates. But that conventional wisdom is based on the assumption the most conservative voters are the most likely to vote. That assumption would be wrong.