Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reasonable People Should Not Applaud Cantor's Defeat

On February 11, 2014, Eric Cantor voted yes. He joined John Boehner, and only 26 other of his Republican cohorts in the House to raise the debt ceiling without condition, ending years of debt ceiling brinksmanship. Eric Cantor, as of this morning still the Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, is not a moderate. He is a conservative, which rankles some, but he is reasonable. He is the kind of Republican who, under the right circumstances, can vote for a Farm Bill, for a bipartisan budget deal, for a Highway Bill, can even entertain discussions about immigration reform (indeed The Hill newspaper is already reporting that immigration reform is likely dead with Cantor's defeat).

So it is dismaying to see so many reasonable people take to social media to celebrate Eric Cantor's demise. Regardless of what happens in Virginia's 7th Congressional district come November and Election Day, the Republicans will almost certainly retain control of the House, which means that Eric Cantor will be replaced as Majority Leader, likely by someone like Kevin McCarthy (CA) or Paul Ryan (WI).  And for their efforts yesterday, Virginia's 7th District voters will be represented by someone with astoundingly less clout.

Mike Simpson and Mitch McConnell, a member of the House from Idaho and the Minority Leader of the Senate from Kentucky, respectively, are establishment Republicans who fended off strong Tea Party primary challengers just a few weeks ago. At the time, I thought that was a good sign, because it could begin to make reasonable Republicans once again feel comfortable that they could indeed be reasonable, with less fear of opposition from an extremist wing of the Republican base. In short, they wouldn't have to defend their flank with extremism.

But the Cantor race is a monumental setback in the effort to restore a sensible Republican Party. Now, every member of the Republican Party who is up for reelection, anywhere and at virtually every level of government, will be compelled to steer inevitably to the right. Towards hardened, inflexible positions that steel them from substantive primary challengers and accusations of being "too liberal." Eric Cantor is not even a shade liberal, he has been stubbornly unwilling to deal on many issues, has been an obstructionist at times. On the surface, to the untrained eye, his removal from the helm of the GOP ship means that his strain of political obstructionism is on the wane. That would be a mistake. His loss means that government shutdowns, bond rating reductions and general stasis will become more likely, not less. In short, his strain of obstructionism has been replaced by a more virulent strain.         

1 comment:

Joel said...

Good column