RJC Needs Perspective on Cantor Defeat

House Rep. Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, (R-VA, 7th District)

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) went overboard in its statement last Wednesday regarding Eric Cantor’s primary defeat. The organization’s press release began, “We are disappointed that our Friend Eric Cantor lost his primary race tonight.” RJC President Matt Brooks went so far as to say, “It is a colossal defeat not just for Republicans but for the entire Jewish community.” Both statements were inappropriate and, for the sake of the party’s cohesion and values, ill-advised.

Many Republican Party member are disgusted with party leadership – perceived as docile in the face of Obama’s unconstitutional abuses, weakly committed to fiscal responsibility, and pliable on the issue of illegal immigrants. This perception was personified by Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th District. The RJC’s sharp and doleful reaction pointlessly aligns itself with elements of the GOP power structure who are hostile to constitutional loyalists and the Tea Party, and have thus lost touch with much of the party membership.

Cantor’s conservative, limited-government bona-fides had become questionable.

  • During W. Bush’s administration, Cantor supported “No Child Left Behind,” which greatly expanded federal control in public education at the expense of state and local discretion, not to mention parental influence. This program opened the door for today’s gargantuan Common Core initiative, which is becoming reviled across the nation.
  • Cantor supported the Medicaid Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, which added $700 billion in costs over the following decade.
  • Buying into the “too big to fail” mantra, he voted for 2008’s Emergency Economic Stabilization Act that included the $700 billion TARP bailout.
  • Cantor used a procedural voice vote to pass a Medicaid bill that included expanded Obamacare coverage, a move hardly consistent with the declared Republican goal of “delay, defund, and repeal.”
  • Cantor refused to oppose the so-called “Violence Against Women Act,” the noble title of which belied its inclusion of unconstitutional provisions, such as the stripping of constitutional rights from Americans prosecuted by Indian tribes for alleged acts of domestic violence.
  • Cantor was one of 28 Republicans who voted in February to accommodate Obama by passing a clean debt ceiling increase.

Then, of course, there was the controversial question of amnesty for illegal aliens.

On Fox News, center-right commentator Brit Hume argued that amnesty was a non-issue, as the word itself had never been used in proposed legislation, and that no-questions-asked, instant citizenship for law-breaking border-hoppers was not on the table. For Hume, though, this was either naive or disingenuous. With the current difficulties – and executive unwillingness – associated with border and immigration enforcement, it is difficult to imagine how even temporary “pathway to citizenship” leniencies will lead to a secure border. The fact is that a pathway to citizenship already exists, but apparently this pathway is acceptable only to those immigrants who do not originate in Latin America and cross via the Rio Grande.

The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, whose principles Cantor supported in a Republican version of the bill, would arguably have encouraged border-jumping with children acting as anchors for themselves and other family members. The week-old crisis of children from Central America and Mexico illegally entering Texas, a direct result of Obama’s DREAM equivalent via executive order, has become a window into the future of such legislation. Illegal aliens entering through a porous border are picked up by the border patrol and bused directly to Arizona. Children and adult illegal aliens stated in interview that they fully believe that they’re unauthorized entry into the U.S. would result in material benefits and citizenship. Meanwhile, very little effort has been made to check for diseases, and health hazards abound in the facilities where the border-jumpers have been temporarily housed.

Despite the timing, any perceived weakness on immigration law enforcement was but one facet of Cantor’s downfall. Put simply, Eric Cantor lost touch with the conservative Republican base, including the Tea Party, in his constsituency that had previously elected and repeatedly re-elected him. Mere weeks before the primary, Cantor participated in an anti-Tea Party, anti-conservative weekend retreat organized by the Mainstreet Partnership PAC. The PAC is dedicated to defeating conservative candidates and officials, and has received funding by George Soros and labor unions. John Boehner, who was slated to participated as well, pulled out at the last minute, perhaps sensing the political hazard of such an association. Furthermore, Cantor refused to debate his nemesis, Tea Party challenger David Brat. The result of the disconnect: despite a spending disparity of Eric Cantor’s $5 million to Tea Party challenger David Brat’s $200K, the latter won with an 8-point margin. It was a lanslide defeat for the first incumbent House Majority Leader in history to lose a re-election nomination.

Jewish Republicans owe Eric Cantor both thanks and praise, but not blanket support. Perhaps his best “conservative moment” as House Majority Leader was when he organized the unanimous GOP “no” vote against the stimulus bill on January 28, 2009. And, of course, Eric Cantor has been a dynamic, charismatic, leading, and effective advocate of close support for Israel. Pro-Israel factions will feel his absence and have to work a bit harder, perhaps, to forward their agenda.

However, Israel still enjoys great support by a large majority of American legislators, including those who affiliate with Tea Party (previously called “Republican”) values. More importantly, the ability of the United States to function as a strategic ally with, and benefactor towards, Israel depends upon a healthy American economy. This means that repealing the economy-killing Obamacare, simplifying the tax code, steering America away from its current direction towards tax-and-spend welfare-state-meltdown, and securing the border should be priorities for all Jewish Americans.

The RJC’s mission statement explains, “We seek to foster and enhance ties between the American Jewish community and Republican decision makers… to sensitize Republican leadership in government and the party to the concerns and issues of the Jewish community, while articulating Republican ideas and policies to the Jewish community.” Nothing about supporting David Brat over Eric Cantor contradicts that mission. Jewish Republicans should soberly acknowledge at least the possibility that David Brat was the better candidate to uphold conservative Republican values.

Sitting shiva for Eric Cantor’s political fortunes does nothing for the RJC, Jewish Republicans, or the GOP. The RJC should follow Eric Cantor’s lead, respecting the Republican Party’s candidate nomination process and its outcomes by expressing unity and reaching out to support candidate David Brat in the November election.

About the Author
Michael Jaffe was raised on Long Island and moved to Israel in 1987. He holds a MS in electrical engineering and a PhD in mass communication research. He's worked as a technical marketing consultant and lectured on topics of communication and systems of government.