Cantor Removes Self as a Problem

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Last night's flaying of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in a primary by his Tea Party challenger sounds much more like a defeat of Eric Cantor than a win for the Tea Party. Cantor, it seems, alienated both Republican activists and average constituents.

Apparently hoping to establish himself as some kind of Republican boss in Virginia, Cantor made initially successful attempts to take over his party's apparatus. These were eventually repelled -- but not before he and his operatives had alienated the more active members of his own party:

Starting this spring, Eric Cantor and his chief consultant Ray Allen, along with various other goons from his Young Guns network, invaded county and congressional district Republican conventions and manipulated the rules to slate off Republican activists to deliver congressional district chairmanships to his allies...
And, much later:
... Cantor's bullying across the state, his attempt to disenfranchise Republican activists (and not just tea partiers), outraged Republicans across the state.  The blogs, Facebook, and Twitter exploded in the last few months over these actions and it gave [challenger David] Brat at the very least statewide sympathy if not an army of potential volunteers who didn't need much motivation.  Cantor's district is dead center in the state and its [sic] not that hard to get to...
This account goes on to note in passing that Cantor is "also notorious for not having very good constituent service". That's a bad sign for advocates of limited government since our goal is to disentangle the government from our daily lives, presumably making the elimination of the need for such "services" a goal.

Regarding these "services", another commenter notes:
Cantor's constituent services moved more toward focusing on running the Republican House majority than his congressional district. K Street, the den of Washington lobbyists, became his chief constituency. In Virginia a couple of months ago, several residents of Cantor's district groused that they were going to support Brat because they did not think Cantor was doing his job as a Virginia congressman. Others no longer trusted him.
In today's context of pressure-group warfare, this hardly sounds like the repudiation of a big-government Republican. There is a fundamental difference between being afraid one's boy in Washington might not bring home a scrap of pork -- and wanting to be free to bring home some bacon.

Returning to the first commenter, it speaks volumes that:
Nobody would have given Dave Brat the time of day no matter what he attacked Cantor with if it weren't for this colossal mistake rooted in Cantor's vanity and dream to somehow become the Republican boss of Virginia...
The Tea Party may not be dead in terms of being able to secure electoral success, but it isn't exactly thriving in terms of generating electoral interest in limited government: Eric Cantor shouldn't have had to be such a poor candidate to have suffered a primary defeat. The fact that Cantor lost will have short-term repercussions, to be sure, but the manner of his defeat should be taken by advocates of limited government as a sign that much work remains if our cause is to ignite a true revolution.

I know practically nothing about David Brat, but an opportunity to advance the cause of limited government, or at least stymie greater government intrusion, has fallen his way. Only time will tell us how he will use it.

-- CAV


6-13-14: Corrected "refutation" to "repudiation".


Michael Neibel said...

I just want to add that there is no such entity as the Tea Party though there are a few national groups using that name. There are tea party groups that I would not join ever and some I would hasten to join if they were closer to home.

They are local grass roots groups who are inviting speakers to educate themselves on more than just politics. They are a mixed bag for sure. But as they become more educated they will have more of an effect.

Dismuke said...

I suspect that a significant percentage of constituent services for any Congressman consists of desperate pleas for help to either cut through red tape or get some bureaucrat off the back of some helpless person or business in the district. For example, a sick relative on one of the VA waiting lists or a local citizen or business caught up in a regulatory or IRS nightmare. Unless one has deep pockets for attorneys or has the ability to get media attention, asking one's Congressman for help is often the only recourse one has when standard channels fail. Given the size and scope of the federal government in all aspects of our life, such assistance to one's constituents is actually an important part of a Congressman's job - and a way of concretizing just exactly what a mess it can be to have to deal with the federal government. Any representative that fails to respond to such constituent pleas deserves to lose on that ground alone - it shows indifference to the plight of the very people whose votes they ask for every two years.

I think the Republican electorate is much better as a whole than are elected Republicans, especially the Republican leadership. Sure, there are problems with the Republican base - but to the degree that this was a slap at the spineless and corrupt Republican Establishment this is a good sign. And one thing about Brat - his campaign denounced Cantor for being a "crony capitalist" and emphasized the difference between cronyism and capitalism. That is an enormously important distinction and, to the degree someone points that out to large number of people, it is a good thing.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for your remarks about the variability of what the label "Tea Party" can mean. I never use the term as shorthand to describe myself, lately preferring "advocate of limited government".


Thanks for shedding some light on both some of the ameliorative roles a congressman can play (revealing about Cantor!) and mentioning the helpful distinction Brat drew. (I also heard from the Harry Binswanger List that, though Brat has a mixed philosophy, he is an active BB&T professor.)