Boston College Expert: Tea Party Upset Victory
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Moakley Professor of Political Science
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Prof. Kay Lehman Schlozman’s principal research focus is citizen participation in American politics. She also has expertise in broad areas of American political life; parties and elections, interest groups, voting and public opinion, political movements, money in politics, and the gender gap in citizen political activity. Along with numerous scholarly articles, Professor Schlozman is the co-author of five books including her most recent, The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy. She is also the editor of Elections in America and was the chair of the American Political Science Association's section on Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior.
In what it being called a political tsunami, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will soon be looking for a new line of work after an historic defeat in last night’s primary to a little known Tea Party backed economics professor named Dave Brat. That a party leader could be defeated for the first time in a primary is serving as a wake-up call to Republicans.
“No one is saying they saw this coming - everyone seems to be shocked,” says Kay Schlozman, Moakley Professor of Political Science at Boston College whose expertise is citizen participation in American politics. “It was a surprise both because Cantor hasn’t had opposition in his district - he’s always won with comfortable margins - and it hasn’t been a particularly good year for the Tea Party.”
Cantor, the second highest ranked republican behind the Speaker of the House, spent 13 years in Congress and lost by 10 percentage points.
“It’s going to make the ultra conservative somewhat more skittish because Eric Cantor was a very conservative legislator, but he wasn’t quite as conservative as some of his fellow House members in the Republican party,” says Schlozman, editor of Elections in America and former chair of the American Political Science Association's section on Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior. “What would I think about going forward? I would think about two things: what is going to happen to the House leadership? Will Boehner, with whom Cantor did not always get along, will Boehner sustain this earthquake and where will the House leadership go?”
The Tea Party backing aside, the defeat can also be attributed to a very basic reason - Cantor lost touch with the pulse of his constituents.
“He ran a somewhat lackadaisical campaign even though he spent a lot of money,” says Professor Schlozman, co-author of five books including, The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy. “He didn’t have a field operation; all of those things suggested that not only did everybody else not see this coming, he didn’t see it coming.”
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