Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham talked to Megyn Kelly about Dave Brat’s stunning upset victory in the Virginia Republican primary last night. It’s a great conversation, beginning with Kelly’s observation that conservative media added so much fuel to Brat’s surge, particularly when the topic of illegal immigration heated up. That might be part of the reason the outcome took pollsters so completely by surprise. I’ve seen it estimated that turnout was up by 40 percent over defeated Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s last race. A lot of new people turned out this time, and they might not be the sort of people who turn up in polls… except for the one that really counts on Election Night. Ann Coulter makes a good point about how polling is used to manipulate public opinion on topics like immigration, but when it’s time to fill out a ballot, voters look at what’s really happening right now on the border and render a different answer than the one they give to pollsters.
Laura Ingraham observed that the polished, connected, well-funded political pros haven’t been doing such a great job of running the country, which might be a reason voters find a well-run outsider campaign attractive. (Note to outsider candidates chomping at the bit: poorly-run campaigns are far less attractive, and I suspect both voters and the media will always be inclined to judge severe mis-steps harshly, leaving you with less room to recover than the insiders get. Bring your A-game!)
Listening to Coulter and Ingraham’s discussion reinforces my sense that immigration reform is not only an issue that galvanizes voters, but it’s a proxy for the sense of alienation from the elite that drove the creation of the Tea Party movement. It’s an issue where the Ruling Class, reaching across both parties and their respective power brokers, is completely out of step with the common man. That sense of alienation was particularly powerful in Cantor’s district, where Brat successfully argued the Majority Leader was not spending enough time tending to his constituents. The Tea Party is what happens when Atlas stops shrugging, and starts voting.