Wayne Powell’s challenge to Eric Cantor: Mudcat v. the Establishment

It is difficult to envision Eric Cantor's name emblazoned across the front of a NASCAR stock car. Impossible to imagine Ralph Stanley playing at his events. Cantor is from the age when the South finally joined up with the Eastern conservative establishment, leaving church, party and tradition behind. The great historian W.J. Cash early warned of this: The ominous New Man would come to the South, he said, a reincarnation of Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, avatar of commerce as a measure of all humanity. Texas conservative Ron Paul brought up Lewis as well when asked a question of the advancing establishment by Fox: When America becomes a fascist state, said Paul, quoting Lewis, it will be calling itself a Christian nation and wrapped in the American flag.

You won’t find that in Cantor (who honored “the vigilance of [George W.] Bush in bringing bin Laden to justice”) but you will find it in those in D.C. and on Wall Street for whom he holds the coat. What is historic in Cantor’s tenure is that virtually half of America’s conservatives have begun to look elsewhere — to Paul’s vision of states’ rights and sound money, for example — for new guidance.

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But as the conservative establishment gobbled up the heartland, Virginia, with a little help from Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, co-author with Steve Jardin of Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must do to Run ’em Out, came to remember what it once was and what it had become. Democrat Mark Warner came to the governor's office and the state rose to unprecedented prosperity. Not long after Jim Webb followed to the Senate and Virginia appeared to remember its name; to remember again who it was. Today, Virginia has the opportunity to send Cantor packing with Wayne Powell, who has the support of Mudcat.

Powell is a retired Army colonel who was mobilized to command troops after 9/11. A product of the Richmond public schools, he chaired the advisory committee to the Henrico County school board, where his two children were educated. Wayne is fluent in Spanish, and provides pro bono legal help for the Hispanic community all over Virginia. His son, Sean, is currently serving in Afghanistan.

“We’re going national,” Saunders told The Daily Caller. "What he [Cantor] has done is sold out the 7th district and his country so that he could become majority leader and continue his march to the speakership," Saunders said. "It's all about Eric Cantor. It has nothing to with anything else."

Call it the "Mudcat" paradigm. It is antithetical to the Eastern establishment. Saunders advised the Indiana-born, Harvard lawyer Warner fundamentally to embrace the place he lived and to celebrate it in all it had been. Warner did sponsor a NASCAR stock car and the Stanley Brothers did play at his events on Mudcat’s advice. It was true Jacksonian populism well before the moose-eating variety became attractive to the right. The NASCAR theme is a masterful Zen strategy. It shows a politician’s comfort level with the common people of rural America. And most of them just look scared and out of place.

What voters get to vote for in Richmond is American heartland as it is experienced in Mudcat, Jim Webb, Mark Warner and Wayne Powell. Or the South imagined by New York money and reinvented as a Gene Autry movie. With Cantor they get a failing, bankrupt and unconstitutional foreign policy, a failing, imperial financial system, a philosophy challenged today by 40 percent of its own, and a losing apparatus of a political family whose time has passed. They get a subtle and secretive establishment leaving in its wake bitter invective which poisons the airwaves and the blogosphere and a legacy of global embarrassment and pain for America and our most ancient ancestor, Israel.