Connie Schultz: Virginia’s ‘magnificent act of legal rebellion’
By Connie Schultz
So many theories as to why House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary race.
My personal favorite is his pollster’s account of the merry band of marauding Democrats.
Understand, this is the same pollster who predicted Cantor’s runaway victory, so it’s not so hard to see why he’d want to latch on to the Invisible Internet Avenger narrative.
“Over the weekend Democrats … and liberal media were driving their Democratic voters on the internet into the open primary,” John McLaughlin wrote in an email to the National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher. “Eric got hit from right and left. … Untold story is who were the new primary voters? They were probably not Republicans.”
I have to say, it was fun reading that quote aloud in phone calls Wednesday to Democratic activists in Virginia. What a happy bunch, even though they insist they couldn’t possibly take credit for this historic defeat.
“It was stealth movement,” longtime activist Eileen Davis said in a phone interview from Richmond. “Not ‘stealth’ in that it was secret. ‘Stealth’ in that nobody — not the Republicans, not the Democrats — took us seriously or paid any attention. A friend called it ‘our magnificent act of legal rebellion.'”
Davis is a registered nurse who has volunteered at a clinic for the uninsured and co-founded Women-Matter.org. “I’m the nurse who argued with Eric Cantor about the Affordable Care Act at that town hall,” she said.
Davis said fellow progressives started having a different conversation about the Republican primary about three weeks ago.
“For a long time now, we’ve been trying to unlock this idea that we can’t talk about ideas,” she said. “We have a lot of progressive advocacy groups in this state, and we decided to cross over and vote for (David) Brat in the Republican primary.”
She knows not every Democrat is happy with consequences right about now.
“We understand we created a real quagmire for us,” she said. “But we wanted a real election. Yes, money will come in, but now it’s going to come in for both candidates.”
Fellow activist Margaret Doyle agrees.
“The Democratic Party has been very disappointing,” she said. “They always take the attitude that it’s not worth the effort to field a strong Democratic candidate in the 7th District. So they do nothing.”
She first caught wind of Democrats’ plan to vote in the open primary in a discussion on Facebook.
It struck her as a plan.
“We forced this conversation,” she said. “We wanted a referendum on Eric Cantor. We decided to swing for the fences and hope for the best.”
She never expected that ball to soar.
“When I found out Cantor has lost, I was shocked,” she said. “With David Brat, we’ve got a fire-breathing kook-ball right out the gate. We’ve got a clear choice, and now the Democratic Party is paying attention.”
Democratic Party activist Candace Graham said she’s confident that a campaign analysis will show that it was the Democrats who defeated Cantor, and she has no regrets.
“I don’t think it was unethical for us to do it,” she said. “So many of us feel so beaten up. We needed to do something. If you don’t want us to cross over, then close the primary.”
Graham added that Democrats weren’t the only ones behind the crossover strategy.
“A Brat campaign worker came to a Democratic Party meeting on Tuesday,” she said. “At first, he was just chatting, but then he introduced himself as working for the Brat campaign and encouraged us to vote in the primary.”
Cantor’s defeat has launched a thousand shock-and-awe quotes from politicians and Beltway journalists who were wrong in their predictions.
“Pundits didn’t see this coming, but we had an inkling,” Davis said. “Cantor was out of touch. He was dismissive. And he was disrespectful to the electorate. He shows up like a rock star. You’d think he was Sting, the way he carries on.”
She, too, has no regrets for crossing over in the primary and encouraging other Democrats to do the same.
“We have a real election on our hands,” she said. “People have a real decision to make now.”
I don’t know who should fear these women more, the Republicans who didn’t notice or the Democrats who refused to see.
In this race, I’d say it’s a tie.