14 June 2014

What Does Eric Cantor's Defeat Mean For Us?

Over the past few days, a lot of bandwidth and newspaper column spaces has been devoted to post-mortems and analyses of Eric Cantor's defeat in the Virginia Republican primary.

It's the first time in the history of this country a reigning House Majority Leader lost a primary.  That in itself is sending shockwaves through the political world.  But it's also interesting for all sorts of other reasons, some of which directly affect the lives of LGBT people, and trans people in particular.

You see, Cantor was beaten by a hard-line "Tea Party" Republican named David Brat. (You've got to love it!)  Brat and his ilk believe that Cantor was "too soft" on issues like immigration, abortion, gun control and gay marriage--all of which the Tea Partiers vehemently oppose, on principle.

Brat's campaign has mirrored and echoed others all over the country:  The Tea Party folks raise doubts about the commitment of some establishment Republican to their causes and run him (almost all of them are male) out of office, or keep him from getting elected in the first place, as happened with Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. 

In their quest for ideological purity, Tea Party types are moving further and further to the fringe and appealing to smaller and smaller segments of the electorate.  Will they decide that Chris Christie, if he decides to run for President, isn't "conservative" enough?  What about John Kasich, Scott Walker or Jeb Bush?  Even though I have little in common, at least in my political beliefs, with them, I would hardly consider them extremists, at least by the standards of the current Republican Party?

In their effort to forge a Stepford party, they are, ironically, making it more likely that Hillary Clinton--whom nearly all of them loathe--will become President in 2016.  Heck, they could make it possible for Elizabeth Warren, whom they dislike nearly as much, to move into the White House. 

As commentators like Paul Krugman have pointed out, more and more Americans are in favor of--or, at least, not opposed to--gun control, legal access to safe abortions, immigration reform and--the bête noire of the Tea Party--same-sex marriage.  And the latter has been upheld by conservative Republican Federal judges in places like Utah!

So why does the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party become more vehement in their opposition to those changes?  I'll give you a one-word answer:  Hate.  Yes, I said it.  They hate LGBT people.  (At least most of them don't try to hide it with "Love the sinner, hate the sin" nonsense.)  They hate Hispanics, the racial/ethnic group with the most people who would benefit from immigration reform.  They hate the poor, they hate women, they hate children and anyone who happens to be on the wrong side of a firearm. 

That said, I was never any fan of Romney, Cantor, Christie, Bush or the other mainstream Republicans I mentioned.  They represent mainly corporate and other big-money interests.  (In all fairness, so do most Democrats, at least to some degree.)  But they have supported--or, at least didn't make much of a show of opposing--immigration reform and the other changes I've mentioned. (Romney voiced opposition to them, but the Tea Party, rightly, wasn't convinced.)  Of course, they supported those things for entirely different reasons from the right ones: For example, to them immigration reform means more cheap labor.  But at least they weren't appealing to the basest instincts of their constituents--which is how people like Professor Brat win primaries. 

What does that mean for us?  Well, the further to the fringe Tea Party candidates move, the more persistent and just plain vicious their attacks on us will become.  Although I believe we will ultimately win, we have to be ready for them.