Let me be the…er…probably last to express shock, shock I tell you, that GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary. Apparently when in our local election a candidate referenced Eric Cantor as being not conservative enough, that actually did and does resonate with some voters. Still, Cantor had a 95 (out of 100) lifetime conservative rating from The American Conservative Union. So what the heck happened? How does a guy like Eric Cantor lose to a Joe Blow nobody? Surely it’s not because he’s only 95% conservative instead of 99.44% pure conservative. Right?
First, let’s check Joe Blow’s credentials. I assume he has a name other than Joe Blow. Let’s see, looks like it’s David Brat. He is a “true” conservative (not like that Cantor phony!). Surprise, surprise, he’s going to end Obamacare. He’s a ‘create jobs by getting rid of immigration’ type of guy, so there he earns double points. Balance budget amendment…check. Christian values under attack? Oh yeah, and in a big way. They are under attack in such a way that they threaten life itself! Oh, and by the way, God is pro-gun. Betcha didn’t know that! So anyway, certainly a very conservaty conservative.
The punditry pretty much decided that Cantor lost because he had made some comments that could represent tepid support for very limited immigration reform. In fact, they declared immigration reform is now dead. Hmm….call me crazy, but for something to die, it must have been alive in the first place. Immigration reform was never going anywhere. It already didn’t have enough support. It wasn’t one vote to the good and then they lost that vote or anything. Nothing changed. In fact, Eric Cantor was pretty much screaming to the roof tops that oh no, he did not support immigration reform. So the idea that Eric Cantor was going to be some sort of knight in shiny armor riding in to save immigration reform is just false.
Really, I think the reason Cantor lost is more nuanced than just a single issue. I think you can go into several factors. One, it’s what can happen when not many voters show up at a primary…it just doesn’t take that many votes to swing an outcome. (Brat only got 36,000 votes or so.) It can be what happens when you gerrymander, the views in a single district can become pretty extreme. I think perhaps Cantor was more vulnerable to the ‘establishment’ tag being an actual House leader and not just a rank and file member. And there is certainly a segment of the electorate who do not believe that they send people to Washington to be pragmatic but rather to fight an “enemy” that is the other party on all fronts. That means you fight the debt ceiling raises. You go ahead and shut down government over budget issues. Not just some of time, every time. Anything else is losing.
More than anything, Cantor’s loss is not a sign of change. It’s just another symptom of the way things have become. The ‘do-nothing’ Congress controlled by Republicans will just continue to do nothing, at least while there’s still a Democrat in the White House.