Brat’s Blueprint


Considering it’s the first time a sitting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in a primary since 1899, and Dave Brat was out-spent $5.4 million to $200,000, Brat pulled off our biggest political upset since George Nethercutt beat then-Speaker Tom Foley in 1994. The first time a House Speaker had been unseated since 1862.

By now most of us have already read and celebrated plenty of analysis of Brat’s statement win on Tuesday. But there are three things to learn from this upset that have largely gone unnoticed elsewhere, and provide a necessary blueprint for conservatives going forward.

1. Stop Splitting the Conservative Vote.

How many times have we seen multiple conservatives split the vote in the primary, only to hand the election to the establishment?

Been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt.

That would’ve also happened in Virginia’s 7th district primary on Tuesday, except a humble patriot named Peter Greenwald stepped aside a few months ago to coalesce support behind Brat. Greenwald, who has been serving his country since 1985, did what most of our other candidates are unwilling to do. He put honor and the cause ahead of ego and ambition. His willingness to put his children’s future first gave Brat time to focus on Cantor. If Greenwald doesn’t step aside, it’s quite likely Brat doesn’t win.

We need more candidates willing to do the similarly honorable thing in the future, or we’ll have to make this decision for them if they don’t. For example, right now the establishment is already determining whom their candidate will be 2016. They won’t run three candidates, and never do. They’ll run one. Meanwhile, we’ll run five-to-seven, and then slowly watch them pick each other off until it’s too late. We cannot allow that to happen again. Instead of getting emotionally or financially attached to a candidate going nowhere, we need to do the honorable thing and follow Greenwald’s lead.

Our futures cannot afford for the Republican Party establishment to blow another election in 2016.

2. We want high turnout primaries.

The conventional wisdom has always been lower turnout primaries helps the more principled candidates. But that conventional wisdom is based on the assumption the most conservative voters are the most likely to vote. That assumption would be wrong.

For example, right away NBC’s Chuck Todd tweeted that Brat took advantage of a low-turnout election, but the reality is the exact opposite is true. Turn-out in the Brat-Cantor primary was up 28% over 2012. So how did a dramatically under-funded candidate beat an incumbent that spent over 20 times what he did in a high-turnout election?

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Because it is the most conservative voters who are increasingly staying home in these primaries (and the general). They have given up on the process, and think little will change regardless of which party is in power. Brat’s principled campaign moved those people from complacency to conviction. Look at this primary cycle the establishment has mostly dominated. They were almost all low-turnout primaries. The same people that had been voting for these establishment politicians since the days when cordless telephones were a modern marvel, returned to do the same. Meanwhile, turn-out in the McDaniel-Cochran primary in Mississippi was higher than expected, and McDaniel came out with the most votes heading into the run-off.

I first saw this in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. The Mitt Romney campaign’s entire strategy was based on a turn-out model of around 90,000 Iowans, which had been the historical average. However, over 125,000 Iowans showed up, and Romney was soundly defeated by Mike Huckabee. What happened is Huckabee motivated the grassroots in Iowa to turn-out well beyond expectations, and they did—for him.

Stop listening to ruling class propaganda. The truth is the more people who vote in Republican primaries the better off we are. But that means we need to run candidates like Brat that will put in the work and inspire those people to believe again.

3. It’s about our principles, stupid.

In his post-win interview on Fox, Brat refused to label his win as simply a Tea Party victory over the establishment. He said it’s bigger than that. Brat said there are still plenty of people who believe in the principles Republicans are supposed to stand for, but there aren’t a lot of Republicans following those principles.

He’s exactly right.

What Brat is articulating is perhaps the only path to saving the GOP from imploding, as its shaky coalition of constitutionalists and corporatists continue to war with each other. Probably the only way to overcome such factional fighting is to transcend it by leading on the principles in the party platform, which are the reason most of us become Republicans in the first place.

When elections are about issues/principles conservatives win. When elections are about personalities/group identity we don’t.

(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)

  • Gold Stars

    Too bad more people do not understand this!

    • TLady62

      That’s because they’ve been dumbed down by our corrupt Media Industrial Complex, run by Progressives and mushy GOP Moderates.

      • Down to Earth Thinking

        That would be PRAVDA/MSM and it is very powerful to be sure . In fact it is the main power of the Obamaites. And it can easily be defeated but few realize it actually exist as it does and in the power that it does. Most just say the left leaning press and that is not even close.

        • TLady62

          You’re right. It isn’t. Especially when you have someone like FNC’s Carl Cameron advising Cantor to be a write-in candidate on the November ballot. It’s apparent the will of the taxpayer means nothing to those within the Complex.

          • Fed up!

            Cantor if dose that is nothing but a Commie that is no more out to line his pockets with our money. Hang em High!

        • Fed up!

          Let’s call a exterminator and kill off all those nasty Obamaites aka also know as cockroaches

  • FrankC

    We need candidates who are actually conservatives and who will stand for, and fight for, the values our country was founded on. We can turn this into a popularity contest, but is the most poplar person also the best leader? I am fed up with the weak candidates the establishment Republicans keep forcing on us. I will take Brat over Cantor any day of the week.

    • TLady62

      Couldn’t agree with you and Steve more. This nonsense with the Establishment trashing TEA Party Conservatives and then demanding our vote has gotten rather stale, right along with the Bait-And-Switch game they play talking like Conservatives on the campaign trail, then governing like Progressives once they win. I am grateful the tax payers of Virginia’s 7th district saw through Eric Cantor’s ruse and tossed him out on his ear.

  • disqus_oajLzmvtVa

    To follow the Republican platform one needs to acquire it. Locally this is being done. The primary was great but not because the plat forn was followed or the voter ever had it. Our Central committee is having it printed an if possible mailed out.

  • DrSique

    Hate to burst your bubble, Steve, but there is a major chasm between conservatives and the republican establishment. Republicans have been corporatists for my entire lifetime. That is exactly why we are where we are, an effed up country and a war within the party. I am extremely happy about Dave Brat though. Not only for his victory but because he has shown that solid, principled candidates can beat the establishment hacks. Dead right on consolidation behind the right people.

  • Watcher in the Rye

    First of all get your quibbles and spats out by the time of the primaries, then “Really Unite” behind all your candidate Winners and get out and vote for all of them. Those who stay home and sulk will only get something much worse – “La Clinton” – the oxymoron of a genuine fraud in office once again flying around on her sharpened broomstick skewering the ordinary average Americans, especially those who would like the dignity of real jobs and employment instead of her nostrum of hot air and pabulums. After the Primaries, Unite for God’s Sake – or you will irrevocably lose the entire country forever to the United Socialist Philistines and Sodomites.


    Yep! We sure showed em in “Clinton one”, when we split the vote for that “Hand grenade with a crew cut” Then there was “Bob Dole”, nice guy, but he should have retired. Then we let them force those staunch Conservatives “John McCain” and “Mitt Romney” on us! But I am sorry guys and gals!!! This time we “Must!” I repeat “””M-U-S-T-!””” REMEMBER OUR “”””A–B–C–s””””” A-N-Y-O-N-E B-U-T C-L-I-N-T-O-N-!!!!!!!!!!

  • jimof ct

    As I’ve stated in other comments I believe the House Republicans can establish a clear set of campaign issues by filing Impeachment charges against Obama.
    It is indeed the entire Obama administration that is committed to Transforming America” that the voters have been too complacent to realize due to the MAIN STREAM MEDIA PROPAGANDA.
    Impeachment charges identifying clearly the abuse of power in violation of the Constitution and its resulting damage to citizens of the US will make the media and people focus more on what has been happening and being ignored or lied about or getting spin from the media to cover up the Obama agenda’s reality.
    Rino and radial democrats should be defeated in 2014 and 2016 to have any chance of stopping and reversing the damage of the radical leftist democrats.

  • axmickl

    Take this article and read it to all the fools that say politics disgusts them so they won’t vote any more. Then they get disgusted by the scoundrels they help get elected by staying home. Is there any hope left for this country? Not as long as we allow the low life’s to call all the shots.

  • Fed up!

    Steve your hit it out of the park! Well said, great ideas . Could you put out a article as to how/ plan as to go get these Conservatives to get to vote. Stop listening to the idiots like Carl Rove aka Rino.