Wednesday, June 11, 2014

So Much for Pushing Up Daisies

Apparently a 96% approval rating from the American Conservative Union wasn't good enough. Eric Cantor, House Majority leader, was defeated Tuesday by his Tea Party challenger, David Brat. That's right, the number two man in the House of Representatives, and the man many suspected would be the likely successor to John Boehner as the next Speaker, is out of a job. And here's the real shocker, it wasn't even close. Despite having a war chest of $5.4 million, Cantor just didn't lose, he got his ass kicked.

Make no mistake about it, this is a huge victory for the far Right. It's also a huge headache for the entire Republican Party. Don't get me wrong, I shed no tears for Cantor. Let's face it, he was a backstabbing weasel and a major irritant to both Boehner and his own House conference.  But even I didn't see this coming. Cantor, who rode the Tea Party wave in 2010 and became one of the movement's favorite sons, was ironically done in by his own kind. Talk about eating your young. 

This isn't just a Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock moment, this is a major sea change for the GOP and, yes, for Democrats too. By taking Eric Cantor down, the Tea Party threw down the gauntlet and served notice to any and all within earshot. We're alive and well and we're not going anywhere.

This, hopefully, should put to bed all the "establishment Republicans take back their party" drivel I've been hearing from the supposedly in-the-know pundits out there. With a few notable exceptions, the prevailing logic was that the Tea Party was on the outs. So much for being out.

So what was it that did Cantor in? Well, two things. One, he had the audacity to embrace some form of immigration reform. Among the Tea Party that has become a four-letter word, right up there with Obamacare and Benghazi. You might as well give a vampire sunblock as to even hint at "amnesty," which is what the natives call it in the land of Oz.

But the second thing was probably just as big. Cantor had become identified by the base as an establishment Republican, which is hysterical when you think about it. Of all the Republican leaders in the House, none was more of a dick than Cantor. He wasn't just your run-of-the-mill obstructionist, he was the self-proclaimed chairman of the obstructionist wing of the Party. It was Cantor, you may recall, who "urged" Boehner to walk away from the grand bargain deal he was trying to strike with President Obama back in 2011. That stunt almost brought about a debt-ceiling default.

But then Cantor did something unconscionable. He started behaving like a leader. He voted to end the government shutdown, which bitterly angered the base. Then there was all this talk about education reform. Cantor supported weighted student averaging, which a good many Democrats also support, and you just can't have that sort of thing in the land of Oz. Cantor forgot the golden rule: if a Democrat is for it, you have to be against it.

Adding fuel to the growing backlash against him was that fact that he rarely, if ever, spent any time in his own district, which, I might add, thanks to gerrymandering, was made even more conservative. How's that for poetic justice? Oh, death, where is thy sting? So confident was he of being reelected, he didn't even bother to show up in his own district the night of the election. Now that's ballsy, even for Cantor.

So what does this mean? Well, for one thing, you can kiss goodbye any hope of bipartisanship in both Houses of Congress for the foreseeable future, not that there was much hope of that to begin with. Not only is immigration reform out the window, but just about any major legislative initiative, as well. The GOP, which has now been reduced to a shell of a party, won't dare pass anything out of fear of what the consequences could be to them. In the short term - 2014, that is - the Party might benefit from Cantor's ousting, especially if the base turns out in record numbers; in the long run, however, this will only move the Party even more to the right, thus setting up a nightmarish scenario for it in 2016. This is what happens when you create your own Frankenstein monster; it ends up turning on you and burning down the whole village.

In the meantime, Washington politics, which has been gridlocked for the last three and half years, will now come to a virtual standstill. Michael Tomasky is right. This is an earthquake.

1 comment:

Prof. Walter Jameson said...


A few thoughts on your observations here and, once again, the notion of "conventional wisdom" identifying mainly with conventionality and precious little wisdom. This is not a victory for the far Right; it is a victory for economic populism. If there are any rumblings of an earthquake, that is its cause. And, to be perfectly blunt about it, establishment Democrats would do very well to heed the message once they get over their back-slapping merriment.

To find out what really took place here, all anyone needed to do was to put aside all the insider-talk and political theorizing and actually LISTEN to what the good folks of Virginia's 7th CD had to say. When was the last time someone like Michael Tomasky or Rich Lowry got their shoes dirty and talked with some real folks outside the Beltway? You don't need much time to answer that one.

No sir! This was about an establishment pol who, as you rightly alluded, forgot about the people he represented. He would often tell them one thing, and then would proceed to do another. His support for so-called "immigration reform" was seen entirely in the context of the ardent backing he received from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In other words, undercutting working class and middle class citizens in THIS country so that the Chamber's constituency can have its unlimited supply of cheap labor. That's what this is all about - people just trying to regain some fundamental fairness in an era when the Chamber's buddies, including the Wall Street crowd, have gotten just about everything they've wanted at the expense of many ordinary working folks.

All anyone has to do in the "conventional wisdom," "all-knowing" punditry is clear the cerumen from their ears and start doing some serious listening. And the establishment, centrist Democrats would do well to heed this advice, too, for THIS is the issue that will unite the working and middle classes across the political ideological spectrum. And that represents quite a few votes....angry votes.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.