The Virginia 7th District Congressional Election

The Democratic nominee is Jack Trammell, who is a professor at Randolph-Macon College. Here is his Wikipedia page and his “faculty focus” page. He has written a bunch of books and has a particular interest in addressing education discrimination and disabilities.

It appears Trammell was caught a bit flat-footed by Cantor’s defeat; he doesn’t even have a proper “Trammell for Congress” web page, just a donation page. If you want to throw him some money to get a proper campaign going, here is his Act Blue page.

The Republican nominee, David Brat, also is a professor at Randolph-Macon. He does have a proper “Brat for Congress” site, and here is his “issues” page. You can see it’s pretty much a wingnut checklist.

Along with a Ph.D. in economics Brat, a Catholic, has a master’s in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. The new Rick Santorum? According to Brat’s Wikipedia page, his published papers include “God and Advanced Mammon: Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?” and “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.” I seriously hope those go online sometime. See Steve M for more on Brat’s connections to the Church of Ayn Rand.

David Weigel’s analysis of how Brat defeated Cantor is essential reading. A lot of people are focusing on the education reform issue, but Weigel shows there’s a lot more to it than that. In a nutshell, the baggers and the lunatic fringe — Allen West, Laura Ingraham, et al. — are interested only in total opposition to President Obama. They are no longer interested in enacting conservative policies if doing so means compromising so much as a hair. Cantor was caught trying to please the U.S.Chamber of Commerce / ALEC / American Enterprise Institute crowd — the GOP’s chief sponsors — and in doing so he ran afoul of the bagger agenda, which is that Washington must do NOTHING that requires Democratic votes to pass. And as long as Dems hold the Senate, that pretty much means Washington must do NOTHING.

But Cantor made the mistake of trying to do SOMETHING.

In 2013, Cantor and the counter-establishment flew apart. Less than a month after Obama’s second inauguration, Cantor debuted a vision for a new GOP that would “make life work.” What if the GOP incentivized people to buy better health care and seek more useful college degrees? What if it went a little easier on immigrants? “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home,” Cantor said at a February 2013 speech at the American Enterprise Institute. He pushed through school choice bills (The Student Success Act), and helped amend the farm bill to add more work requirements for food-stamp recipients.

None of this was “liberal,” per se. It just wasn’t what the conservative base had asked for, campaigned for, voted for. It was the agenda of the establishment, simpatico with the Chamber of Commerce. The business community had been there to elect Republicans in 2010 (and with less success in 2012), but in 2013 it was asking for Republicans to pass some sort of immigration reform and avoid a government shutdown. Cantor went with Democrats on a three-day tour to boost reform; he sought out a number of ways to avoid a shutdown, including a failed gambit to split the “defund Obamacare” vote from a separate appropriations vote.

My understanding is that Cantor was the one Republican leader in the House who could most skillfully thread the tactical needle, obstructing President Obama without allowing the GOP to shoot itself in the foot, Ted Cruz/government shutdown style. Without him, the freak flag is more likely to fly. Heh.

I don’t think anyone has any true sense of where this election might go, or if Trammell has even a remote hope of winning Cantor’s gerrymandered district. No matter who wins, though, I think losing Cantor in the House is going to b a huge handicap for the GOP.

19 thoughts on “The Virginia 7th District Congressional Election

  1. “Brat for Congress”

    It should read: “Brat for Congress. We need a new one, to replace the old one!”

    Also, too – let’s ask the new Brat if in his paper, “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand,” he mentioned that Rand’s ‘morals” included being a Communist, a sexually promiscuous Atheist (NTTAWWT!!!), and someone whose own personal adherence to “Objectivism,” included her accepting Social Security and Medicare?

    This enquiring mind wants to know!
    Especially, since all of the above apply to me (except for the sexually promiscuous part – anymore).

    From Tikkun, THIS NEVER GETS OLD:
    “There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kld’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.”

  2. On the local news in Richmond, political pundit Bob Holsworth looked between the lines of Cantor’s concession speech and speculated that Cantor was at least considering running in the general election as a write-in candidate. I believe that would make it a wide open race.

  3. This is why I think it’s still too early to make any firm predictions about the midterms. Because behind all the polling and the fundraising and the gerrymandered districts, the Republicans have gone completely insane. If they could hide it that would be one thing, but they’re actually proud of themselves, and they will demonstrate this in many ways between now and November.

  4. Seems Cantor didn’t pass the ideological purity test. I bet Paulie has been rattled enough to dust off his leather bound gilded edge copy of Atlas Shrugged to seek the infallible word of Ayn Rand. Studying to show himself approved. Well, actually Paulie been pretty good in towing the line. But you never can be too secure when purity of thought is the altar on which judgments are made. Oh, Ayn, increase mine understanding!
    One obvious drawback in this seemingly awesome Tea party victory is that whatever alliances and working relationships Cantor has built up with his time in Congress will be severed. This new bagger( if he’s elected) won’t have the benefit of established maneuverability that comes with longevity in the club. It will most likely exacerbate intra-party tensions for control of the direction the party is headed.. A house divided cannot stand?

  5. One of the stupidest things the Democratic Party has done is not keep up Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy. (The previous most stupid thing was not having a 50-state strategy before Dean put it together.) This yet another example of an opportunity a 50-state strategy can take advantage of, and Tea Party/GOP primary wins will create other opportunities. If Cantor runs as a write-in it’s even better… IF you have viable candidates with organizational clout/money behind the Democratic Party candidate.

    • JDM — the problem with the 50-state strategy is that it resulted in the election of a pack of blue dogs, who in some ways were worse for the Dems than Republicans.

  6. Brat was shrewd and lucky enough to find the particular opening in Cantor’s armor – immigration. Where Paul Ryan seems like a flimsy C-grade student trying to pass himself off as an intellectual heavyweight, this guy Brat sounds like the real deal. Very much looking forward to how he comports Catholicism with Ayn Rand. Regardless of the mental contortions he goes through, and regardless even if he wins the race in Virginia, he’s a welcome tool for the Money Power.

  7. Swami,
    “A house divided cannot stand?”
    A normal one, can’t.

    But Lincoln never mentioned either an “Animal House,” or a Mental Institution.

  8. Check this out! It’s a snapshot into Brat’s mind. Without dissecting it line by line, it is apparent that Brat is way out in space. The children of God reference is like scary when you try to understand its relevance to making his point. And his linkage of minimum wage to productivity kinda leaves out any linkage to basic humanity.
    I kinda get the impression that his mind is of a similar mind set to the Nazi economists who were able to reduce a life’s worth down to a dry and detached dollar amount with no component of humanity considered.

    TODD: Where are you on the minimum wage? Do you believe in it, and would you raise it?

    BRAT: Minimum wage, no, I’m a free market guy. Our labor markets right now are already distorted from too many regulations. I think CATO estimates there’s $2 trillion of regulatory problems and then throw Obamacare on top of that, the work hours is 30 hours a week. You can only hire 50 people. There’s just distortion after distortion after distortion and we wonder why our labor markets are broken.

    TODD: So should there be a minimum wage in your opinion?

    BRAT: Say it again.

    TODD: Should there be a minimum wage in your opinion?

    BRAT: I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one. All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation’s productivity. Right? So you can’t make up wage rates. Right? I would love for everyone in sub-Saharan Africa, for example — children of God — to make $100 an hour. I would love to just assert that that would be the case. But you can’t assert that unless you raise their productivity, and then the wage follows.

    TODD: Sounds like you’re making a case against a federally mandated minimum wage.

    BRAT: I’m just making the case I just made that you can’t artificially make up wage rates, they have to be related to productivity.

    • You can read/listen to the whole exchange between Todd and Brat here. This guy is not ready for prime time. Granted he’s probably short of sleep and over-scheduled, but a guy who gives lectures for a living ought to be able to fake it better than this.

  9. Picked these up on a comments board at the LAT:

    I live in Cantor’s district and can confidently say that this was more about “anybody but Cantor” than anything else. He is quite unpopular here. A significant number of Democrats voted against Cantor in the open primary. It’s a remarkable moment when liberal Democrats and Teapartiers can agree on a political choice.

    A write-in campaign [for Cantor] would be seen as unseemly in Virginia. The district generally likes centrists. Whoever captures the center stands the best chance, I think. An interesting poll out today shows the district significantly more liberal on immigration than the Tea Party’s position. And of course with any election, presentation counts for a lot. I haven’t seen either of these guys speak.

    How does Jack Trammell fit into the picture?

    Both work at Randolph-Macon College and Jack Trammell’s score at is higher (4.2) than David Brat’s (3.4), which might not say anything about the political qualities.

  10. @Swami – he reads like someone who’s spent a lot of time in an academic setting (I was going to write “ivory tower”). The “children of God” reference is touching, it speaks to the currents running underneath the conversation. A distillation of a human life down to a dollar amount wouldn’t even mention or be aware of this.

    Dr Krugman is going to have a field day with this guy.

  11. I just hope Jack Trammell is ready for prime time! Sometimes it becomes all too clear why members of the House used to thrash each other with their walking sticks and suchlike. So often the whole lot of them seem to be the dregs of the nation.

    • I did a quick google to find a video of Trammell saying anything, and found nothing. And of course nobody is interviewing him.

  12. Interesting that Mr. Brat is seemingly unaware of the productivity gains in this nation documented as far outstripping increases in wages. I guess he has not received a revelation in his bank statement on this issue yet.

  13. Maha – “I’d love to live to see a woman President, but Hillary Clinton is arguably even less progressive and more “corporate” than Barack Obama. Electing her would mean a few days of “hooray! We have a woman President!” Followed by four to eight years of “damn, when will Washington stop toadying up to corporatism?”

    Maha – “Cantor was caught trying to please the U.S.Chamber of Commerce / ALEC / American Enterprise Institute crowd — the GOP’s chief sponsors — and in doing so he ran afoul of the bagger agenda…”

    I’m not suggesting that HRC and Cantor have any political common ground BUT the ideological flaw that Barbara attached to Clinton, “toadying up to corporatism” is damn close to the flaw that brought Cantor down with the GOP voters, “trying to please the U.S.Chamber of Commerce”. Yes, the corporate groups HRC would suck up to are different (mostly) from the corporate groups Cantor was in bed with. Doesn’t matter. Voters on the left and the right are tired of elected officials sleeping around with corporate Johns.

    There’s a good post on C&L about Brat. Here’s a quote that got me thinking about what Barbara had written in different recent posts.

    “All of the investment banks, up in New York and D.C., they should have gone to jail.”That isn’t a quote from an Occupy Wall Street protester or Senator Elizabeth Warren. That’s a common campaign slogan repeated by Dave Brat, the Virginia college professor who scored one of the biggest political upsets in over a century by defeating Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary last night.

    The national media is buzzing about Brat’s victory, but for all of the wrong reasons.

    It’s hard to wrap your head around the concept but there’s an issue that resonates with some voters, a lot of voters, in EVERY part of the political spectrum. I said it resonates with VOTERS – not the parties, not the corporate puppet masters (left leaning and right leaning) not K-Street lobbyists and the not the MSM (who reap huge profits from the existing orgy elections). People with a strong commitment to either the left or the right aren’t looking up and seeing that the other side is using the same words on the same issue and both sides mean it. We have to build a wall of separation between politics and money, return the political power to voters. This will change the ecology of politics – it won’t intrinsically make politics more liberal or more conservative – just representative of the people.

  14. Sure, Maha, far better to have no Democratic Party presence, no infrastructure, at all in many districts. Far, far better to let the GOP save the money they’d use fighting for those seats so they can spend it in borderline districts. Sure.

    • JDM — The Blue Dogs were pulling the Democratic Party further Right. They were a useful expedience in the short term but in the long term they were in the way. Even Howard Dean no longer supports the 50-state strategy. See: “Boot the Blue Dogs,”

      In 2005, Howard Dean, who was then the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, carried out a campaign to elect as many Democrats as possible. In long-ignored red states, both Mr. Dean and Rahm Emanuel, then the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, backed conservative Democrats who broke with the party’s leadership on core issues like gun control and abortion rights. Mr. Shuler was one of Mr. Emanuel’s top recruits. The party leaders did not give much thought to how a Democratic majority that included such conservative members could ever effectively govern.

      With President Obama in office, some notable beneficiaries of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy have been antagonizing the party from within — causing legislative stalemate in Congress, especially in the Senate, and casting doubt on the long-term viability of a Democratic majority. As a result, the activists who were so inspired by Mr. Dean in 2006 and Mr. Obama in 2008 are now feeling buyer’s remorse.

      Margaret Johnson, a former party chairwoman in Polk County, N.C., helped elect Representative Shuler but now believes the party would be better off without him. “I’d rather have a real Republican than a fake Democrat,” she said. “A real Republican motivates us to work. A fake Democrat de-motivates us.”

      Ms. Johnson is right: Democrats would be in better shape, and would accomplish more, with a smaller and more ideologically cohesive caucus. It’s a sentiment that even Mr. Dean now echoes. “Having a big, open-tent Democratic Party is great, but not at the cost of getting nothing done,” he said. Since the passage of health care reform, few major bills have passed the Senate. Although the Democrats have a 59-vote majority, party leaders can barely find the votes for something as benign as extending unemployment benefits.

      See also “Blue Dog Blues (Chalres Pierce).”

  15. And to add, it’s shortterm thinking like that in your comment, with the far right doing longterm thinking instead, that’s led to our present state.

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