The RJC's Missing Perspective on Eric Cantor's Loss
When Eric Cantor lost his renomination bid two weeks ago, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) figuratively dressed in sackcloth and ash. "We are disappointed that our Friend Eric Cantor lost his primary race tonight," began the election eve RJC press release. 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 ill-advised.
What do these statements communicate to the victorious nominee, David Brat, and to Virginia's 7th District's constituents? To Brat, they communicate a lack of confidence in himself, to say the least, perhaps even an antagonism. To 7th District constituents, the comments reflect a rebuke and disregard for legitimate local concerns about Cantor's House voting record. The magnitude of Cantor's loss (an 8% margin,) in light of the spending disparity (Cantor's $2 million vs. Brat's $200K,) underscored the dissatisfaction of the local Republican constituency that had repeatedly re-elected him. He now holds the dubious distinction of being the first incumbent House Majority Leader in U.S. history to lose a re-election bid. Cantor's refusal to debate his challenger also did nothing to endear himself to his constituency.
Many Republicans, including Jewish ones, are disgusted with their party's leadership - perceived as docile in the face of Obama's unconstitutionally lawless abuses, and Eric Cantor's conservative bona fides had become questionable. He signed on to a lot of government expansion, entitlement, and too-big-to-fail corporate bailout legislation. He refused to stand up to the anti-constitutional trojan horses such as the "Violence Against Women Act," and has "gotten-along-by-getting-along" in supporting Obama's "clean" debt ceiling increase. Then, there was the controversial question of amnesty for illegal aliens.
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 two-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 legislative activity. It is a health and humanitarian catastrophe whose terrible consequences will afflict the general U.S. population. This has not been a blameless problem; it was caused by negligence and an immoral calculus of human suffering for political gain.
Children and adult illegal aliens have stated in interviews that they fully believe that they're unauthorized entry into the U.S. would result in material benefits and citizenship. Where did they get this message? From a grossly lawless Obama administration that broadcast its intent to ignore its laws, and the passive Republican opposition led by John Boehner and Eric Cantor, who were so busy bashing the Tea Party that they failed to develop some spine.
Cantor repeated the mantra that he never (not technically) supported amnesty for illegal aliens. With the current difficulties -- and executive unwillingness -- associated with border and immigration enforcement, it is difficult to imagine how de facto amnesty will be avoided. Cantor has known all along 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.
Put simply, Eric Cantor lost touch with the conservative Republican base, including the Tea Party, in his constituency that had previously elected and repeatedly re-elected him. A few 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 participate as well, pulled out at the last minute, perhaps sensing the political hazard of such an association.
Jewish Republicans owe Eric Cantor both thanks and praise, but not blind 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.
Israel still enjoys great support by a large majority of American legislators, including those who affiliate with Tea Party (i.e., original 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. America won't be able to help Israel when it is functionally imploding.
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.
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.
J. Michael Jaffe is a technical communication consultant and a member of the Israel Freedom Movement.