Eric Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in Congress, so his downfall in Tuesday night’s primary continues to resonate in terms of the Jewish place in America. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post is Jewish; he repeatedly cites Cantor’s Jewish background in a column, and then suggests that is what brought him down:
Cantor, who had been on course to be the first Jewish speaker of the House, was an important symbol in a party dominated by evangelical Christians. The ouster of the only non-Christian Republican in Congress by a primary challenger running as an immigration hard-liner is a crucial moment for the GOP because it risks cementing the party’s demographic troubles….
Cantor’s ancestry probably wasn’t an asset Tuesday among some of the voters who had been added to his district because of Republican-led gerrymandering.
I.e. Christian folks in Virginia are anti-Semites. Very much like the Cook report analyst David Wasserman’s line in the Times yesterday.
[Cantor] was culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented and more conservative.
“Part of this plays into his religion,” Mr. Wasserman said. “You can’t ignore the elephant in the room.”
This is a traditional response to the Tea Party and more broadly to American populist movements: they’re John Birchers/anti-Semites. But it’s surely simplistic. The Tea Party had no problem with Eric Cantor’s religion in recent years. The Almanac of American Politics reports that Cantor cemented his status as a “leader of the House’s tea party conservatives in” in 2011-2012 by fighting the White House over spending. My in-laws live in Cantor’s district and they say many liberal Democrats voted to get rid of him– just what Annie Robbins reported yesterday. “I bet you a dollar that 30 percent of his district didn’t even know he was Jewish,” my father in law says.
The evening news last night hammered on Cantor’s isolation from his district and his arrogance as the reasons for his defeat. He famously spent the morning of Election Day at a fundraising event in Washington; Paul Blumenthal reports that victor David Brat used Cantor’s big-money politics against him, and good for him.
The Almanac of American Politics also speaks about Cantor’s money. He comes from a wealthy family, he studied real estate at Columbia, his father was a treasurer to Ronald Reagan’s Virginia campaign:
“Cantor is popular with fellow Republicans, in no small part because of his skill at fundraising. He raised more than $10 million in the 2010 election season and another $13.1 million in the 2012 cycle.His largest donors included securities and investment firms… His wife Diana, a liberal Democrat, is a former Goldman Sachs vice president.”
Marsha Cohen at Lobelog reports on the completely imbalanced money sheets in the Cantor-Brat race and says that Wall Street and Israel lobby spending ended up hurting Cantor:
Cantor reportedly spent more than $5 million on his re-election campaign, while his opponent, an Economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, spent only $122,000. With big bucks backing him, Cantor seemed to have little to fear from a political novice supported by the Tea Party. “Brat’s campaign portrayed Cantor as a creature of Washington and an ally of special interests, particularly those representing the financial industry,” writes Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Cantor’s top three campaign contributors for the 2014 cycle were the Blackstone Group, Scoggin Capital Management, and Goldman Sachs.
The New Jersey based pro-Israel political action group NORPAC was also among the major contributors to Cantor’s campaign committee, though Cohn seems to have overlooked this. Ranking #9 on Cantor’s list of top donors, NORPAC had bundled $24,560 from pro-Cantor contributors in the 2014 election cycle, about $2000 less than Goldman Sachs’ $26,600.
The focus on evangelical Christians in Cantor’s largely-suburban district is a distraction from material issues. Cantor was a wealthy candidate isolated from the people. I wish I could say that his district rejected him over his Israel stance, but it didn’t. His defeat has nothing to do with religion.
P.S. As I noted yesterday, the New Republic reported that Cantor rose rapidly inside the Republican Party because he tapped into big money–much of it Jewish.
“Over the course of his 14 years in Washington, Cantor never ignored that elephant [his Jewishness] —and often tried to exploit it. This was most evident when it came to fundraising, which was the foundation of the Cantor political operation.”
Sheldon Adelson is also a power in the Republican Party because of his millions. And Hillary Clinton is now trying to say all the right things on Israel, and Bill Kristol is battling her, because they are jousting over fundraising. So yes, Cantor is evidence of the Jewish presence in the Establishment. But that’s not why he lost.