Brat Wins, GOP Fears the Wurst
Dave Brat may teach economics, but yesterday, he gave Republicans a lesson in civics. The longtime conservative professor, whose Wikipedia entry was just two sentences before Tuesday, made history last night, knocking out the House Majority Leader in a primary for the first time in American history. It was a Dave versus Goliath moment for the relative unknown, who was responsible for once of the greatest upsets in generations. And for seven-term Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Va.), it was a defeat he never saw coming.
With a 25:1 edge in campaign spending, most people assumed the vote was a formality, with polls showing Brat trailing by as many as 34 points headed into the stretch run. As Brat explains it, "It's an unbelievable miracle" -- one the GOP still has trouble believing. To many (FRC included), Eric Cantor was a solidly pro-life leader, who often carried the water on issues that the rest of the GOP leadership wouldn't touch.
That said, he -- like so many in the halls of Capitol Hill -- grew increasingly out of touch with the real priorities of everyday Americans. Instead of sticking to core principles, strong defense, free economy, and family values, the Establishment started listening to the media, instead of voters. As a result, the Left baited them to take up a host of issues they'll never win on.
Case in point: the 7th District of Virginia is a long way from the Mexican border, but the GOP's willingness to compromise on amnesty, as pictures of Latin American children crossing into the U.S. flooded the networks, didn't do much to help Cantor's cause. That fallout, coupled with blowback from the budget deal and a general sense of disconnect, ended in a historic double-digit loss that no one saw coming. For now, the "political earthquake," as the media is calling it, has plenty of potential for shockwaves, as invigorated conservatives look for candidates who will shake up the Establishment's status quo.
Mississippi's Chris McDaniel, locked in a runoff with Senate fixture Thad Cochran, is the next likely hero in an unlikely tea party run. Neither underdog, Brat or McDaniel, have the endless amount of cash their competitors do -- but if last night's results prove anything, it's that money is no substitute for hard work and principled stands. "We don't need to spend millions of dollars," said a Brat staffer. "We had people who just stepped up in every way imaginable."
In the meantime, the message from the grassroots couldn't be clearer: wake-up, Republicans. No one is invincible who can't see past the Beltway to the real problems and priorities of the American family. "I always said I'm not running against Eric Cantor as person. I ran against him on the principles espoused on my website." Principles like the free market, a strong national defense, the rights of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, and religious liberty. Principles that have, for decades, made up the non-negotiable backbone of the party platform.
"The easiest way to lose a campaign," one strategist pointed out, "is to not take your opponent seriously." Or voters. It's time for Republicans to start playing to win on core values too many of them are running from -- and not on.
A Move in the Rights Direction
The U.S. Supreme Court could rule any day on the decade's most significant religious liberty case -- but that doesn't mean conservatives are just twiddling their thumbs waiting for it. Instead, House Republicans are moving forward with a debate of their own -- working to protect the First Freedom of everyone from cake bakers to company owners.
Thanks to Judiciary Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the issue finally took a turn in the legislative spotlight in a special Tuesday hearing of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justices. Conservative stalwarts like Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Randy Forbes (R-Va.), and Steve King (R-Iowa) tried to rebuff this modern (and misguided) take on the "wall of separation" and its place and meaning in history.
"In America," Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) explained, "every individual has the right to religious freedom and First Amendment expression so long as they do not deny the constitutional rights of another. True tolerance does not mean that we have no differences, it means that we are obligated as members of the human family to be kind and respectful to each other in spite of those differences, religious or otherwise."
To Barry Lynn's suggestion that religious liberty should only be accommodated in limited circumstances, Franks countered the longtime head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "This administration seems to casually ignore the historical fact that religious liberty involves much more than freedom of worship alone, and that the fundamental rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion do not stop at the exit door of your local house of worship, but instead, extend to every area of life."
The crackdown on Christianity has to stop -- and it will take the bold leadership of conservatives like these to make it happen. Let's hope the full House is watching and works to give the issue the priority status it deserves. "Nothing," John Adams once said, "is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion." And right now, that's exactly what we have.
The Conventional Wisdom of SBC
While state parties solidify their parties' platforms, another convention was getting plenty of press this week: the Southern Baptist Convention. The country's largest protestant denomination may have changed leaders but it hasn't changed its mind on key issues. At yesterday's Annual Meeting, the SBC handed the baton from dynamic President Fred Luter to Ronnie Floyd, a longtime friend of FRC's, whose church was the site of one of our first national simulcasts.
Over 3,000 voters elected Floyd to head the SBC, one of the few leadership positions the mega-church pastor has not held in his decades of Baptist service. Fortunately, the Arkansas minister didn't waste any time reaffirming the denomination's commitment to core issues. As part of the yearly gathering, the SBC was clear that it wouldn't follow in the politically correct footsteps of other faith groups and back down from its position on natural marriage.
Also, as the Obama administration pushes for everything from transgender military service to taxpayer-funded sex changes, members overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing the government's efforts to "validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy." We commend the SBC for standing its ground in the cultural battle and refusing to stray on biblical truth. Under Pastor Ronnie Floyd, I'm confident that biblically-sound, morally-clear leadership at the SBC will continue.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.