It seems everybody in the media is trying to explain Eric Cantor’s bizarre defeat in the Republican primary. It’s his support for immigration reform, some say. It’s his aloofness, his neglect of his rural district in Virginia to pursue lofty national goals, say others. Or it could have been his lack of authenticity. Or was it really a victory for right-wing talk radio, which launched a crusade to defeat him?
Cantor’s pollster, who missed the mark so wildly, blamed Democrats. Virginia holds “open” primaries and the pollster claims a bunch of Democrats conspired to unseat Cantor by voting for his opponent.
I don’t know whether any or all of these theories are right. The fact remains that this Washington pooh-bah blew five million dollars on his primary race and lost to a no-name professor who had pennies to spend.
To all appearances, Cantor was headed for great things, to move up from majority leader in the House to speaker, and then – who knows – president?
The polls predicted he would win the primary in a walk. He had won the gerrymandered district seven times in a row, and his reelection this November was considered so predestined that the Democrats hesitated to nominate a challenger for the seat.
But in the end, the primary voters decided to go with the other guy. And not by just a few votes. The margin was nearly 12 percent.
There may be no one reason for Cantor’s unbelievable fall from grace. But there is a bottom line.
And that is as unbelievable as the loss itself.
A sizable chunk of the Republican base are actually in revolt. That’s right. Not with muskets and squirrel guns of course but with their ballots.
They want to overthrow the federal government. Literally.
Slick politicians like Eric Cantor figured they could use the Tea Party faction to manipulate the balance of power in Washington. They decided they could move just far enough to the right to avoid going over the cliff.
Cantor’s defeat shows how wrong they were.
Cantor was a ringleader in holding the federal debt tor ransom and shutting down the government. He played a major role in making this Congress the least productive in history. And he proclaimed himself a sworn enemy of immigration reform while working on a bill to give the children of undocumented immigrants a break.
Not good enough for the radicals.
Cantor’s sin was that he believed he could make a difference in Washington, that he could be part of a productive federal government. His Tea Party posture was designed to reassure the revolutionaries while he tried to do some good for his country.
You can disagree with the views of politicians like Cantor (as I do) but at heart they want the federal government to be useful. It is possible for Democrats to work with Republicans like that – even though it can be exasperatingly difficult.
With the Tea Party revolutionaries it is impossible.
They want the federal government out of their lives entirely. Grover Norquist, the anti-tax lobbyist, warned some time ago that “our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”
Obviously, the Republican establishment didn’t believe him. They dismissed the remark as mere rhetoric and embraced Norquist, as they have embraced the Tea Party rebels.
The defeat of their House majority leader should send them this message, loud and clear: