Friday October 24, 2014
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24.10.2014
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Richard Baehr

Eric Cantor's loss was not about religion

 

Ever so gently, the New York Times and other journalistic organs on the Left are floating a phony story that the defeat of Eric Cantor in the Republican primary for U.S. House District 7 in Virginia on Tuesday may have been at least partly attributable to his Jewishness. That this nonsense is appearing now is not surprising.

The narrative on the Left and among Democrats is that the Republican Party has become increasingly narrow-minded and out of touch with "rising America" (a group consisting, naturally enough, of those who are not generally Republicans, including members of minority groups), and that the Republican Party's core is increasingly a collection of white male Christians from rural America.

Cantor's rise to majority leader, the second-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, was an inconvenience for the narrative, much as Republican Senators Tim Scott from South Carolina (an African-American), Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida (both Hispanic), and Republican Governors Susannah Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada (both Hispanic) have been similarly difficult to process for those convinced that Republicans practice exclusionist policies and operate from a limited voter base.

The truth of the matter is that more Republican than Democratic members of minority groups have been elected as senators and governors in recent years. Democrats nominate African-Americans and Hispanics to run in congressional seats where the districts' voters tend to be overwhelmingly members of that specific minority group. Democrats have not bothered to nominate more than a very few minority group members to run statewide, despite the fact that minority group members provided over 40 percent of the votes for President Barack Obama in his 2012 re-election victory. It is almost as if Democrats do not trust their white voters to vote for their minority group candidates in statewide races.

Cantor was considered a good prospect to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives, had he won his primary fight, since his district is safely Republican for the general election and Republicans are expected to continue to be the majority party in the House after the midterm elections. Cantor had already been elected to his House seat in the Richmond area seven times, and only twice even drew a primary opponent prior to Tuesday, with only the first such race a competitive one. Were there some underlying resentment of Cantor for his religion, you would think it might have shown up earlier. The Richmond area has an estimated Jewish population of about 12,500, or about 2 percent of the total population in Cantor's congressional district.

Had there been an undercurrent or unhappiness about Cantor's religion among Republican voters in his district, you would think a challenger would have taken him on earlier, and made some subtle or not so subtle inferences about Cantor's religion and background compared to the rest of the population in the area. Of course, though newspapers like the New York Times are loathe to admit it, pretty much every survey demonstrates that white voters harbor far fewer anti-Semitic views than do members of minority groups, and African-Americans hold the most anti-Semitic views of any group.

Republican voters and Republican elected officials are also far more united in their support for Israel, and for a strong U.S. Israel relationship, than are members of the Democratic Party or their elected officials. The gaps between the parties on Israel has grown in recent years, and the drop in Jewish support for Obama from 2008 to 2012 (from 78 to 69 percent) is indicative that even among liberal Jews, Obama's coolness toward Israel was becoming tougher to stomach.

There were plenty of good reasons why Cantor suffered his stunning defeat this week. As a top party leader in the House, he spent a lot of time raising funds and meeting with lobbyists and important financial backers of the party. There seemed to be a growing sense that he was spending too much time on national issues, and less on attention to his district. In a year when the public approval score for Congress is about 10 percent, there is some negativity towards pretty much all federal elected officials.

Cantor also ran a decidedly negative campaign against his primary opponent, Randolph Macon College Professor David Brat. The TV and print ad campaigns served to provide more name recognition for Brat than his meager campaign war chest could ever have achieved on its own. Major talk radio stars Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham went all in for Brat, mainly for their opposition to Cantor's flirtation with liberal Democrats, including Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez, on a pending immigration bill. Amnesty for illegal immigrants is anathema to conservative Republicans, especially when the White House seems to have precipitated a crisis in the past few weeks by seemingly welcoming thousands of impoverished Central American teenagers who have overwhelmed the border crossings in Texas, presumably trying to get in under the wire before some blanket legalization occurs.

The charges that Cantor may have suffered the wrath of evangelicals or Christian voters is also belied by examining county and town vote totals in the primary fight. Cantor suffered his worst defeat among some of the country-club suburban Republican precincts around Richmond, while he carried some of the ex-urban counties in the district, portions of which were added to the district after the redistricting following the 2010 census release.

Conversations with some of the key people who work with a series of organizations involved on a daily basis with members of Congress on issues relating to the U.S. Israel relationship, revealed that while there was disappointment over Cantor's defeat -- since he was a leader on the U.S.-Israel relationship in Congress -- there is no shortage of top Republicans who remain prominent in supporting the Jewish state and pushing for stronger ties between the two countries. Some of the names that kept coming up among Senate members were Cruz and Rubio, as well as Senators Mark Kirk (Illinois), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), and Roy Blunt (Missouri). In the House, some of those most often mentioned included Congressmen Peter Roskam and Adam Kinzinger (both of Illinois), Tom Cotton (of Arkansas, who is also a Senate candidate), Ed Royce (California), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington), Michele Bachmann (Minnesota), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida).

The attempt to suggest that Cantor went down because he was Jewish has a corollary that Jewish Democrats, who comprise about three dozen Senators and House members, are naturally going to be more supportive of Jewish issues and Israel than Republicans are. Several of the people I spoke to said this was nonsense, that while there were some very good Jewish Democrats on Israel-related issues, some of the toughest resistance to measures supporting Israel (or sanctioning Iran) came from Jewish Democrats, with Senators Carl Levin (Michigan) and Diane Feinstein (California) regulars in making life difficult for achieving the bipartisan consensus on Israel-related issues that has been common in Congress.

Those who work with Congress on a daily basis confirmed that one need not be Jewish to be a leader on issues relating to Israel, and overall, it was far easier these days to gain support among Republicans than Democrats on legislation or letters related to Israel.

With the 2014 midterms looking very promising for Republicans to maintain their hold on the U.S. House, and 50-50 or better to take control of the Senate, it is not at all surprising that Democrats would seek to find a way to make Jewish voters less comfortable with the Republican Party. It is very unlikely to work, especially with Obama siding with the Palestinians on the cause of the breakdown of the peace process, ignoring U.S. law to continue American aid to the Palestinian Authority despite its renewed ties with the terror group Hamas, and rushing into a bad deal that favors Iran on its nuclear program.

 

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