What do all three have in common besides a shockingly similar demographic change in the last decade? All three had been considered solidly Republican for decades, and the last week, all three Republican incumbents lost to Democrats.
Noteworthy is how different all three incumbents were. Karen Handel (GA-6), is a soft-spoken and immediately likeable woman. Dave Brat (VA-7) is a very intense and confident former professor of economics. Barbara Comstock (VA-10), meanwhile, has always reminded me of Carly Fiorina. Both give off that same fake, dull, opportunistic, “generic Republican” vibe. For the record, I have attended events with all three over the years, and have met all of them in passing.
How the three chose to relate to President Trump was very different as well. Handel struck a kind of “know-nothing” position, ultimately supportive of him, but always keeping her distance. Brat, a Tea Party darling, never shied from supporting him. Comstock has always opposed him, dating back to 2016.
But these differences did not amount to much. In the end, all three represented white Republicans in the face of their district’s demographic transformation. Republicans had held VA-10 uninterrupted since 1981, but in 2018, their incumbent Comstock lost 56-43. Republicans had held VA-7 uninterrupted since 1971, and their incumbent Brat lost 50-48. Republicans had held GA-6 uninterrupted since 1979, and their incumbent Handel lost 50-49.
Though her race was the closest of the three, Handel’s defeat is still the most emblematic. Her district’s most famous former occupant was inarguably Newt Gingrich, who held it from 1979 to 1999. Though a Republican posterboy, and in many ways the face of President Clinton’s opposition, Congressman Gingrich actively hurt the white America he so poorly represented.(See Newt Gingrich: The White Party’s Candidate?, by Henry Wolff, American Renaissance, December 9, 2011.) Immediately before Handel was Tom Price, who vacated the seat he had held for a dozen years to serve as President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price held that position for less than a year before resigning, after months of fruitless and unpopular attempts at repealing Obamacare. Handel won the subsequent special election against a white male Democrat. Now she has lost to a gun-grabbing black female.
Whether you’re a Tea Partier, a moderate, or a #NeverTrumper; a man or a woman; an academic or a lawyer; in the eyes of the other side, it’s all just different shades of the evil known as “white conservatism.”