Theories on how Cantor lost race

Eric Cantor, to everyone’s surprise, lost big in his race for yet another term. He was slated to be the first Jewish Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives when John Boehner retired.

He had raised millions of dollars from the usual sources and many, if not all of them, wanted something back from him. His hired pollsters had assured him that he was light years ahead of Dave Brat, his tea party opponent who had almost no money to run with. Brat did, however, have the support of a right wing nut fringe commentator of the usual stripe.

Additionally, the other conservative but not tea party folks have continued to win their primaries. Yet when the smoke cleared, Eric Cantor went down in flames by more than 10 points. No one really knows what happened but there are theories. Here are some of them.

All over the European Union and the United States, there is a terrible anti-immigrant sentiment. Nothing is older than the “us versus them” paradigm. Ever since the first cave men walked out of the bog, we’ve seen the “they’re not us — get them” mentality. Dave Brat, who upended Cantor, understood that.

Without our immigrant population this country would be weaker, less productive and would have lots of jobs that, frankly, no one else would be willing to do. But both in the recent European parliamentary elections and in the Brat election, the immigration thing has developed real political legs.

We all know that President Barack Obama and the majority of the Democratic Party have been trying to develop a path to citizenship. The problem now with the Cantor loss is that the so-called “path” will now hit a roadblock and be stopped in its tracks. Every moderate and conservative Republican will be worrying about losing a primary to a conservative whack job if they do what they damned well know in their hearts is the right thing.

So, when those conservative Virginia voters went into the voting booth, they confounded the pollsters who told Cantor that he was 30 points ahead. They elected someone who was even more likely to take the most basic of benefits away from the poorest among us so that the richest could have even more.

Then there is what David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report (supposedly non- partisan) said was the invisible elephant in the room — the fact that Cantor is Jewish. Astoundingly, Cantor is the ONLY Jewish Republican member of Congress.

We Americans have been trained not to appear prejudiced but all bets may be off in the sanctity of the voting booth. That’s why pollsters have to be very careful when they do their work on issues like gay rights or on ethnic divisions.

Of course, Cantor won many elections in the past — eight to be exact, so it is hard to figure out why anti-Semitism would rear its ugly head now. Nevertheless, there are other know-nothing attitudes that frequently go along with ugliness toward immigrants. No doubt the sociologists will be scrutinizing this election very carefully once all the smoke clears.

WAMC’s Joe Donahue told us all a story the other day. He was recently in Washington and somehow managed to get in Cantor’s way. He was astounded when Cantor shouted, “Get out of my way, I’m important.” Joe assured us that this was not kidding around stuff. I believe that a bully in one place will be a bully in others.

There are those who think that some Democrats “crossed over” to vote for the electorally vulnerable tea party candidate. That’s yet another possibility. Maybe it was a combination — a perfect storm if you will — but whatever it was, it happened. I don’t feel sorry for Eric Cantor. Unfortunately, like a bad penny, he’ll turn up again.


Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 6/14/14



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