Political shakeup

FI-EditorialWhen you’re talking about the daily ins and outs of life in Greenwich, typically the events of a single congressional district in Virginia won’t have much impact. But every now and then something actually demands the attention it receives.

The defeat this past Tuesday night of U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor to a little known and poorly funded Tea Party primary challenger has sent shockwaves through Congress and political dialogue. To say no one outside of the true believers saw this coming is putting it mildly, and the repercussions will be felt, even here in Greenwich. This is no mere congressional upset. This is the majority leader of the Republican caucus, who likely was the next speaker of the House, losing to a college professor barely known outside his district.

It’s so rare that in America’s political history you can count on one hand the number of times an officeholder this powerful has lost an election. Now it can be left to the talking heads to determine why Mr. Cantor, one of the most powerful people in Washington, lost when his own internal polling reportedly had him up by more than 30 points. But for once the political tizzy is justified. This is a biggie.

And while anyone on the left who has ever found reason to curse the obstructionist tactics of Mr. Cantor and his fellow Republicans is no doubt enjoying a big, delicious plate of schadenfreude, the thrill of such a big defeat should be temporary. There is always pleasure to be gained amongst Democrats seeing the Tea Party eat one of its own. But the rampage will not just stop with Mr. Cantor.

Democrats are going to have to get used to the idea of another congressional bomb-thrower in the Republican caucus. Consider this: Mr. Cantor has been someone the left has held up as a bogeyman for years, even more so than Speaker of the House John Boehner. And yet, for all he’s done to block Democratic initiatives in Congress, Mr. Cantor was still not ideologically pure enough for the Republican base. If Mr. Cantor was bad for Democrats, how much worse will potential U.S. Rep. David Brat be?

But this just shouldn’t concern Democrats. The kind of Republican Party that used to dominate New England and still does in Greenwich continues to fade. Do they really want a Republican presidential primary in 2016 dominated by the likes of Ted Cruz and his radicals? Greenwich seems like prime territory for the presidential campaign of Jeb Bush, but this result shows the climate might not be good for a Republican who has even had a bipartisan thought.

That impacts all of us. Congress enjoys record low approval ratings while at the same time more than  90% of incumbents are expected to be reelected in 2014 (Mr. Cantor obviously being an exception). That means more gridlock and little of consequence getting done. Immigration reform? Forget that. Gun control? We had another school shooting this week and Congress didn’t bat an eye.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes this week took to the floor of the House to demand more infrastructure money for our district, citing the continued issues of Norwalk’s rail bridge. But in order for that to happen, Congress needs to work. Yet radicals continue to send people to office who work diligently to make sure Congress does not work as our infrastructure crumbles and problems get ignored. This will not help. Mr.Brat likely will be a part of the problem in Congress.

The Republican Party of Chris Shays is but a memory. How long will be it before anyone, like Mr. Himes or Mr. Shays, who is interested in making government work for the people, throws up their hands and gives up? What happened in Virginia can affect us all.

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