House Majority leader Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat in the Republican primary in a Richmond, Virginia, district last night is big news, and it has a Middle East angle. Cantor is a leading defender of Israel’s rightwing government in the Congress; he once said he would side with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu against Obama. Cantor is also one of the most prominent Jews in American politics, the leading Jew in the Republican Party, highest-ranking Jew ever in the Congress.
The New York Times news analysis puts the religious angle in the tenth paragraph, though an analyst describes it as the “elephant in the room.”
David Wasserman, a House political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said another, more local factor has to be acknowledged: Mr. Cantor, who dreamed of becoming the first Jewish speaker of the House, 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.”
Wasserman is a bit of a crank on the anti-Semitism angle:
“There will be lots of 2nd guessing tmw on Cantor loss #VA07,” [Wasserman] tweeted. “Surely will focus on debt ceiling/leadership role, but his religion a role too?”
Cantor famously once sided with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over Obama, when the two administrations were disagreeing. After a meeting with the P.M., Cantor’s office said:
Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington. He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.
Politico highlights the Jewish angle:
The dream of a Jewish Republican speaker of the House is no more.
Matt Brooks, the president of the Republican Jewish Coalition, went so far as to call Cantor’s defeat “one of those incredible, evil twists of fate that just changed the potential course of history.”
“Cantor serves up a schadenfreude Sundae,” Adam Horowitz says, and here’s more Matt Brooks to the JTA:
“We’re all processing it,” said Matt Brooks, the president of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “He was an invaluable leader, he was so integral to the promotion of, to congressional support of the pro-Israel agenda. It is a colossal defeat not just for Republicans, but for the entire Jewish community.”…
Brooks seems to have a point. Even Hillary supporter Steve Rabinowitz mourns Cantor’s defeat to the JTA:
“Wearing my mainstream Jewish skullcap its clear the community needs people like Eric Cantor,” he said. “This is a loss for the Jewish community. I have my disagreements with him, but he’s been there for the community.”
Oh, and the camp counselor is no more. Politico‘s Alexander Burns states:
Now, with Cantor’s defeat, there’s no longer a point man to help organize trips to Israel for junior GOP lawmakers.
Cantor’s conqueror gave a religious spin to primary night. MSNBC:
In victory, [Tom] Brat quoted scripture: “I went to my family and this little note is hanging on my door every day and I read this every day. It’s Luke 18:27. Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’”
More Matt Brooks schadenfreude:
Numb. Speechless. Sad
— Matt Brooks (@Mbrooksrjc) June 11, 2014
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is wearing black too, and says the people of Virginia made a mistake:
MJ Rosenberg says the defeat will change history, it’s a bad day for AIPAC and for Israel firsters who want a confrontation with Iran:
Most significant of all, AIPAC lost its #1 enforcer in the majority party.
Among Democrats (who are essentially powerless in the House), AIPAC has no problem, beginning with Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, Cantor’s counterpart. And dozens of Jewish Democrats.
But among House Republicans, there is only Cantor to effectively fight against negotiating with Iran, against opposing Israeli settlement expansion and, in general, carrying Binyamin Netanyahu’s portfolio in one hand and Sheldon Adelson’s checkbook in the other.
I’m not saying that there aren’t hundreds of Republicans (especially the Bible thumpers) who will aspire to carry Netanyahu’s agenda, but none have his unique attributes: Jewish, Majority Leader, Next Speaker! Not even close.
Cantor was the ball game. And he is irreplaceable.
Especially on Iran. When Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish activist, says that Cantor’s defeat was an “evil twist of fate” that will change history, it is Iran he was talking about
Update: The New Republic’s Jason Zengerle says it’s about money. That’s why Cantor was such a prominent Republican, because he tapped in to the new pools of dough. Hardheaded reporting:
Over the course of his 14 years in Washington, Cantor never ignored that [Jewish] elephant—and often tried to exploit it. This was most evident when it came to fundraising, which was the foundation of the Cantor political operation.
Back in 2002, Cantor was given a place on the House Republican leadership team as a mere freshman largely because, as a former GOP congressman once explained to me, the fact that Cantor is Jewish gave him “access to donors we didn’t typically have access to.” Cantor not only helped the GOP fundraising machine make inroads into the big-money (and typically Democratic) Jewish precincts in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York; he also helped GOP congressmen tap their local Jewish communities for money. Nearly every House Republican I’ve ever spoken to about Cantor’s fundraising prowess has a story about the Virginia congressman parachuting into their districts and paying a visit to the local Friends of Israel or Jewish Federation on their behalves. “If you want to have him come and speak to the Jewish community in Charleston, he’s willing to do that,” West Virginia Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito once told me.
Thanks to Adam Horowitz.