Eric Cantor vs. the Populists
Posted on June 18, 2014
originally posted on wsj.com; June 12, 2014
Rep. Eric Cantor’s surprising primary loss provides a fascinating glimpse into the economic debate that has riven the Republican Party.
It’s a confusing mess that breaks down ideologically, geographically and, most important, along class lines.
Republicans used to be the party of business, all business, no matter what the size. Their philosophy could be summed up as free trade, low taxes, few regulations.
The so-called GOP establishment still adheres to that general philosophy. Its members are the party of big business and small business; they want smaller government, but they also are big proponents of free trade and the free movement of people into and out of the country. They see immigration reform as an important element in economic growth.
The populist wing of the GOP rejects the old consensus. They distrust big business as much as they distrust big government. Tax cuts for the rich hold little appeal or interest for them. They see immigrants as a threat to their financial livelihood.
In traditional terms, Eric Cantor was as conservative as you could get. But to the populists, Mr. Cantor was an elitist who didn’t understand them.