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GOLDMAN: Suburban middle class economic revolt behind Brat’s victory

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. – First, middle class Democrats in Richmond revolting against a government funded baseball stadium boondoggle. Now, middle class Republicans revolting against a rising GOP Congressional leader seen as using the power of government for his cronies and the political elite rather than the people back in his district.

Coincidence? Not to me.

Those who have followed my efforts over the years know I try to hold government accountable to level the playing field for the middle class.

I call it a tightening  “middle class squeeze” and it just choked the life out of House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s congressional career.

Middle class incomes have been stagnant, in real terms, for nearly two generations.

Indeed, in recent years, the cost of education, health care, food is going up faster than incomes, meaning there has been a negative loss of purchasing power.

Accordingly, I differ with those who are calling Dave Brat’s victory a tea party win as this is far too narrow an interpretation. It suggests an insurgent wing of the GOP toppled the reigning establishment.

Brat won in a landslide fueled by a far bigger turnout than seemed likely based on prior historical elections.  To be sure, he got votes from fringe elements, those casting anti-Cantor ballots, Virginians mad with crony capitalism and illegal immigration, even the entry into the voting booths on election day by Democrats voting for Brat to do mischief with the GOP.

Those variables have to be put into the post-mortem analysis.

But historically they never produce the 55 percent achieved by Mr. Brat, the threshold for a landslide. It will also be fashionable to blame the Cantor campaign for arguably the most incompetent media and policy strategy since the Buster O’Brien debacle in 1985 when the hapless GOP Attorney General candidate got crushed by Democrat Mary Sue Terry.

I wrote the following last week in the Washington Post:

“Cantor’s campaign against Brat has been disappointing even by Washington’s cynical standards. For example, Cantor is using a pathetic play to claim Brat has liberal Democratic associations. The truth is the good professor is a conventional conservative eagerly seeking tea party backing. We find Cantor’s campaign tactics troubling.”

Last month, I was the first to write about Cantor’s use in the 2014 campaign of a bogus web site to spread false attacks against Brat.

But again, this doesn’t produce landslide upsets. What does?

A shout out by suburban middle class voters feeling the nation’s leaders, including their long-term and powerful Congressman, don’t “get it.”

Cantor’s campaign saturated the Richmond TV market with campaign ads, singing his praises and attacking Brat. Suburban Republicans were supposedly Cantor’s base. They instead burst his bubble, big time.

Financially fearful suburbanites don’t believe the government “gets it.” For years, the rise of “two-earner families” allowed working people to keep pace.

No longer.

And with more people living longer – a good thing – the economic pie is now being cut differently, not good for families with children entering the workforce especially.

The Middle Class is tired of business as usual. The Shockoe Baseball No-Bid deal boondoggle is business as usual. A powerful Congressmen whose campaign is so out-of-touch with his own base is business as usual.

Cantor said his polls predicted voters were coalescing to give the winner a big landslide victory. I heard the same thing from other top consultants in Washington.

Knowing their expertise, I figured they got that right and as it turns out, they did.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.


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