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OP-ED | Connecticut Democratic Voters Should Take Note of Cantor’s Ouster

by | Jun 13, 2014 9:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

Apparently the Democratic establishment is really excited that Republicans voted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor out of office. That’s fine for the establishment — but maybe it’s time for Democratic voters to take notice that they’re being completely upstaged by Republican voters in the battle against political complacency.

The Dems in Washington are excited because they think Dave Brat’s win over Cantor in the Republican primary in Virginia‘s 7th Congressional District is a sign that Republicans are moving farther to the right, and farther away from mainstream America.

But if you look beyond the spin, you’ll see a motivated and engaged Republican electorate demanding more of their representatives and leaders than are Democratic voters. Didn’t Democrats use to own the “challenge authority” brand? Not anymore.

It’s true that Brat may represent a shift rightward compared to Cantor — even though Cantor tried to paint him as a liberal professor — but really he is more representative of a GOP shift toward populism, and a wariness of a Washington-centric political class that often ignores discontent at home. Well, Republican lawmakers — who were already witnessing some hotly contested races for some of their entrenched colleagues — are now on even greater notice that voters want more from the people they elect.

Compare that to the sluggish electorate here in Connecticut. We have five Democratic representatives in our congressional delegation, none of whom face a serious primary challenge this year. The two senior members of the delegation, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who was elected in 1990, and Rep. John Larson, who was elected in 1998, haven’t had to campaign hard for their seats in years.

While that might be good for Larson and DeLauro, it isn’t good for democracy, and it isn’t good for Connecticut.

This isn’t about pushing parties to the left or right — I’m not advocating here for more liberal lawmakers. What I am advocating for are real, contested elections that force elected officials to be both responsive to and engaged with the electorate.

Winning elections is hard work, especially when a lot of so-called “retail politicking,” i.e. shaking hands and kissing babies, is involved. It forces politicians to focus more on the people they represent — to really look them in the eyes and hear their concerns — and it sharpens their understanding of the big issues of the day.

In single-party districts, competitive primaries are really the only way to keep comfortable lawmakers in check. And as more and more districts are dominated by one party or the other, primaries might be the only place they might face a serious challenge.

That’s true here in Connecticut. As pointed out in an op-ed a few weeks ago, Republicans are having a hard time gaining traction in any of the state’s five districts right now. And while I don’t think we should completely count the state GOP out, democracy can’t thrive when people get too comfortable.

Witness what’s happening in this year’s state gubernatorial race — even though Gov. Dan Malloy isn’t facing a serious primary challenge, he is facing a challenge from the left in the candidacy of Jonathan Pelto, who announced this week that he has created a new political party — the “Education and Democracy Party” — and that he has chosen a running mate and is seeking signatures to petition his way onto November’s ballot.

Republican candidates shouldn’t get too excited and think Pelto’s candidacy will only affect Malloy. Adding another candidate to the mix can shake things up in many different ways.

It’s interesting that Pelto decided to run as a third-party candidate instead of challenging Malloy in the Democratic primary. That may have to do with the lateness of his entry into the race, but it also may have to do with his distrust of the two major parties, a distrust many voters are feeling these days.

That’s why we should celebrate when people run for office, whether in a primary or a general election. And we should mourn when, too often, voters decide to just sit on the sidelines and watch their representatives punch a ticket and take a ride back to Washington.

Suzanne Bates is a writer living in South Windsor with her family. While traveling across the country as an Air Force spouse, she worked for news organizations including the Associated Press, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and Good Morning America Weekend. She recently completed a research fellowship at the Yankee Institute. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.

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(13) Archived Comments

posted by: Stingy Blue | June 13, 2014  10:09am

I think what really happened was that Cantor’s district was redrawn by Republican gerrymandering - resulting in a more conservative electorate who could not stomach his compromises on immigration.  Otherwise a great piece - though I think it speaks more to the dangers of gerrymandering than to the importance of meaningful primaries.

posted by: Bulldog1 | June 13, 2014  10:53am

The gerrymandering that Republican governors have been working on for the last four years may create more winners like Brat who may not be so attractive to the larger population of voters in Presidential elections.  If you want to see where the southern Repubs (Repubs in general?) are headed read the Platform of the Texas Republican Party. Not a document that voters in lots of other places will tolerate.

posted by: SocialButterfly | June 13, 2014  12:44pm

Suzanne Bates:  You tell he truth but are voters willing to accept the truth and reflect it in their voting pattern?  “Our rubber stamp voters keep reelecting the same dead-wood” in elections. Democracy has apparently taken a back seat in Connecticut,

posted by: robn | June 13, 2014  1:16pm

The complacency of Dem voters is quite evident in New Haven where Toni Harp (who’s most significant accomplishment as a state senator in Hartford was to load CT with the most massive per capita debt in the nation) was elected with a message of “vote your color, vote your gender”, outspending her opponent 2:1 with mostly out of town cash, and backed by 100s of thousands of dollars of union footsoldier door knocker time.

posted by: Joebigjoe | June 13, 2014  1:41pm

I think it had directly to do with the few hundred thousand young people that have come across the border at the encouragement of the Obama administration AND some Republicans like Cantor.

People need to wake up. We arent going to go deporting illegals that are not doing bad things here but dont tell me that Cantor and other Republicans can talk about any deal will close the border with what is happening today on the border where they arent screaming at Obama to shut it down, and we’re supposed to believe them. Also border agents have been told that if they take any more pictures of the crisis at our border they will be fired. I guess they dont want the people to see whats going on.

This is classic Clowers Piven at work. If you know what that is then be very afraid and if you dont then look it up. A nation that loses its borders and soverienty is no longer a nation. When newspapers in Honduras and Guatamala are saying get to the US right away, and the Mexicans arent stopping them when traditionally they did, there is something very bad happening and dont insult me or yourself by saying its just children that want to be with their parents.

posted by: PWS2003 | June 13, 2014  1:49pm

There are many takeaways from Eric Cantor’s defeat, not the least of these might be that the electorate is not happy with the direction that this country is going. Both parties are guilty for this bordering on feeling of rage. The common good has become “by the few and for the few.” Jon Pelto’s campaign will give many a chance to vote for someone, as apposed to voting for the lessor of two evils. Both Malloy and Foley represent the interests of the few and if a real debate is forthcoming, Pelto should win because he speaks to the values of most of the electorate. The corporate media will play a big roll in this upcoming election as always, and if history is any guide they will not shine as a force for democracy.

posted by: OutOfOutrage | June 13, 2014  2:39pm


In the same vein, the sad part about Cantor’s defeat is how shocking it is.  This was headline news for days. And that really highlights the fact that money has so thoroughly corrupted the system that no one looking at this race from the outside ever thought to compare the two candidates in any other way.  Cantor spent $5M and Brat spent $100k, that’s all anyone usually needs to know and that’s the problem. 

We shouldn’t have to wait for a full blown revolution within the electorate to affect change but this is proof that that’s exactly what is required to remove an entrenched incumbent and in some places it seems to be happening. Perhaps if they change it enough, we’ll be able to get the $ out of the equation and the pols will have to go back to campaigning on ideas.

posted by: SocialButterfly | June 13, 2014  3:22pm

Let’s not forget that billionaire money and control of the news media put Barack Obama in office TWICE. Money talks LOUDLY in elections. Don’t get carried away due to Cantor spending more money and losing.  Give some credit to “the law of averages.”

posted by: shinningstars122 | June 13, 2014  8:33pm


Mrs. Bates I think one of the biggest take away is who will be the next Majority Whip in the house. Kevin McCarthy and as I am sure you are painfully aware none of the House’s most conservative members were in on the negotiations.

It is one thing to win a GOP primary with very low voter turn… I mean Susan they are worse than Democrats.

It is another thing to govern.

Extremists Teaparty candidate are initially kamikaze pilots until they get a taste of the good life in D.C. then they become Ted Cruz or Mike Rogers or heck even Rand Paul. Although Rand is technically a legacy.

You can bash John Larson all you want, and I assume you do not live in his district, but if you do and you call him or you speak with him in person he is not disconnected.

He would make a wonderful Speaker of the House or Majority Whip.

He would get things done for sure.

If David Brat wins the general election the voters of the 7th will soon realize he is no Eric Cantor.

I mean I detested the guy but I respected him. He could have been a contender now send him off to K street and become that millionaire.

posted by: Matt from CT | June 13, 2014  11:43pm

Republicans didn’t gerrymander the 7th VA—liberalds did.

The U.S. DOJ demanded a majority-minority district for Richmond, which previously had been gerrymandered to provide two reasonably safe R seats. 

After the ordered redistricting there was one very safe R seat, and one safe D seat.

Gerrymandering at best affects 10-20% of the seats in Congress.  80 to 90% of them would be safe for one party or the other even if drawn reasonably compact.

Urban areas vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  Rural areas vote heavily Republican, but generally not as overwhelmingly as urban areas vote Democratic—leading to the situation where one a national basis Democrats have far fewer seats proportional to total number of votes cast for Democrats. 

That would be true even with non-partisan, independent electoral commissions setting compact districts neutral of any attempt to favor one party or the other, or to gerrymander for the purpose of creating a “competitive” seat.

It’s just the nature of how Americans increasing self-segregate themselves.

posted by: shinningstars122 | June 15, 2014  10:20am


@Commonsense honestly where do you pull these fun facts from?

If you have any recollection of the 2008 Presidential race the majority of Obama’s donations were from every day folks,2.5 millions according to this piece…not billionaires.


Sure WS jumped on the “hope and change” band wagon but this was way before Citizen’s United they were much more limited to how much that could donate.

Please also not John McCain raised $47 in one month himself so stop with this delusional narrative that Obama is ruining the country.

Corporate America and WS are just doing fine and dandy with that one.

You honestly believe things would have been that DIFFERENT is Romney was elected?

You clearly have forgotten the years of GWB’s Presidency and such things the Iraq, was which was started with a lie and his, or rather Dick Cheney’s unleashing of the national security state into every aspect of our lives and the biggest expansion of government in decades.

Homeland Security, Border Patrol, NSA etc.

It was that clear WS backed Romney in 2012, and they could also donate way more money post Citizen’s United.

Have fun with this link while you continue to re-write American history.

posted by: Greg | June 17, 2014  6:31pm

“Homeland Security, Border Patrol, NSA etc.”

And Obama—in two terms—has done less than nothing to stop the National Security State.  In fact, he expanded it more than any neocon could have possibly imagined.

posted by: SocialButterfly | June 20, 2014  10:34am

@shinningstars122: It is ironic that you keep creating your version of Barack Obama’s success story when only 34% of voters now give him a favorable job performance approval.  This verifies that voters finally wised up to the fact that Obama is a presidential incompetent and his inept actions prove it every day.
His lack of leadership is doing a bad number on our country.







Why he hasn’t been impeached is a mystery to a lot of people out there.

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