WASHINGTON, June 13, 2014 — In a shocking result, newcomer David Brat defeated six term congressman Eric Cantor by a whopping 11 percent margin. While most analysts blame Cantor’s loss on a number of factors from low voter turnout to Cantor’s views on immigration, the real reason for his defeat may be simpler. And it is very curious.
READ ALSO: Upstart Brat gallops past Cantor
David Brat spent about $230,000 on his campaign compared to the almost $5.7 million spent by Cantor. With that amount of spending and with his savvy election team, Cantor should have easily won. Yet he lost. Maybe the loss was simply because the voters had different views than Cantor.
David Brat had a relatively simple message. As an economics professor he understood that America became great and our economy flourished because of the basic concept of freedom. We generally encouraged a free market economy with minimal government intervention. That was primarily the theme until 2008. It was then that the American people elected a president who promised to fundamentally change the country. Maybe the voters don’t like the change.
Brat is a highly educated and deeply religious man who has a Masters of Divinity degree to supplement his Doctorate in Economics. Most people who view economics as a social science believe that those who contribute the most to the economy and therefore earn the most income, have an ethical responsibility to provide for those who, for whatever reason, do not earn enough to support themselves in a lifestyle that is deemed appropriate. These economists favor re-distributing income by taking more from the earners and giving more to the non-earners.
For the last five and a half years, the current administration has been able to raise taxes on the largest contributors and increase transfer payments to the others by increasing food stamp payments, increasing welfare payments, increasing unemployment benefit payments and paying subsidies to buy health insurance. To pay for this, the income tax rate was raised for the largest contributors as well as raising taxes on capital gains and dividends. And where has that gotten us?
Virtually nowhere. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high as few jobs are being created. The percentage of adults contributing or willing to contribute to the economy is at a 40 year low. Economic growth barely exceeds population growth. Income inequality is worsening. Poverty rates are increasing. And Americans feel a sense of gloom as there appears to be little opportunity in this, the supposed “Land of Opportunity.”
David Brat had a simple, easy to understand message that hit a nerve with voters in Virginia and may likely be appealing to voters across the country. He simply said that we should return to the principles that made the U.S. a great country. Although his religious and ethical beliefs are strong and well founded, he believes that to help people improve their plight, the government should provide opportunity, not unearned handouts which tend to create a culture of dependency.
His message was one stressing free market economics where individuals are encouraged to pursue their self-interest, without government holding them back. He believes it is morally and ethically correct to stop giving handouts and start people back on the road to self-reliance.
In the area of foreign affairs, he favors a “peace through strength” philosophy rather than a peace through “turning the other cheek.” Apparently this was very appealing to voters who watched as the current administration repeatedly turned the other check only to have both cheeks slapped again and again.
The curious part was not that Brat won, but that he did it by spending a small amount of money and by delivering a message that apparently resonated with voters. This could mean that elections may not be won simply by spending large amounts of money. The Supreme Court allowed organizations to spend as much as they wanted. There is currently a movement in Congress to amend the constitution to limit campaign spending on advertising. While we know that advertising can influence the public, maybe a more appealing message has a stronger influence.
As we approach the mid-term elections, politicians should take note. Americans may be giving up on this five and half year “experiment is social justice” and want to return to the principles that made America great.
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