By Jonathan Capehart
Tuesday evening, I observed that the Republican Party now in thrall to the extreme far right of its base stands pinched in its own vise. About an hour later, the nation watched that vise pinch the life out of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s political career. The victory of college professor David Brat over the seven-term incumbent should be a wake-up call for Republicans to take their party back from the fringes. But it also should be one for Democrats.
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In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy admonished the world’s newly free nations to not replace colonial rule with “a far more iron tyranny” because “in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” This pretty much sums up what has been happening to the Republican Party since 2010.
The GOP establishment lurched hard to the right when three-term conservative Sen. Bob Bennett Utah went down in defeat at the state party convention in 2010. Four years later, a little-known tea party challenger with pocket change for campaign cash took out a member of the House leadership who harnessed and nurtured the anger of the far right. Cantor was as loyal to tea party concerns and priorities as he was to his omnipresent Gucci loafers. And yet his fealty didn’t protect him from the tiger he rode.
But Democrats celebrating the Cantor calamity better check their schadenfreude. There will be more Brats in Congress if they don’t show up at the polls in November, especially in key races that will determine the balance of power in the Senate. And there is a raft of polls and history showing they won’t.