The Tao of Eric Cantor's Political Demise

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Eric Cantor

The word Tao is of Chinese origin. It’s a noun which is defined as “the principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way, or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order.”

Although my last op-ed piece was entitled “Change is Coming,” I didn’t anticipate what happened Tuesday night. No one did.

Surely by now you’ve heard the news. Eric Cantor – the second most powerful Republican within the GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives – was hammered Tuesday by a Tea Party-backed neophyte named David Brat.

Some observers are calling it the most shocking upset in the last 50 years. History has just been made. Mr. Cantor’s defeat was the first time that the House Majority leader of any party lost in his or her state’s primary. Just last week, polls in Virginia had Mr. Cantor up by as many as 34 points on his primary challenger. Conventional wisdom suggested that Mr. Cantor would win his race in a landslide. Not so. Even after outspending Mr. Brat 40-to-1, Mr. Cantor went down – and he went down hard. How did this happen? Can anything be learned from Mr. Cantor’s loss? What is the Tao of Cantor?

I don’t celebrate Mr. Cantor’s defeat. I take no joy in it or from it. Mr. Cantor stood up to his Republican colleagues and adamantly spoke out for the need for meaningful immigration reform.

He proposed that something be done now rather than to continue the infuriating, GOP-flavored trend of delay, delay, delay. The end of Mr. Cantor’s tenure as Congressman will make it much harder for the 11,000,000 immigrants who want to be Americans fulfill their dream. Indeed, some of Mr. Cantor’s establishment Republican colleagues are glad he lost to economics professor David Brat.

Old-guard Republicans see Cantor’s defeat as “just desserts” for his support of President Obama’s Dream Act. They consider what happened as karmic payback for Cantor’s perceived betrayal. Many of them will surely cite Eric Cantor as a neon-red, flashing example of why they have no intentions whatsoever of even debating immigration reform this year, next year, or even in 2016. They’ll have an order of self-preservation -- with a side of political cowardice. Sweet tea to drink.

The Tao of Cantor’s first principle: kicking the can down the road can lead to kicking the bucket politically. Mr. Cantor took his eyes off the prize. Despite the fact that his home district was only 90 miles from Washington, D.C., he failed to stay in touch with his constituents. He became so enamored of obtaining John Boehner’s position as Speaker of the House, he forgot to do the things necessary to justify why he should be reelected to a seventh term in office. As Hall & Oates famously sang: “Out of touch, out of time.”

The Tao of Cantor’s second principle: the American people aren’t stupid or lazy. Treating them as idiots is a surefire way to get yourself bounced out of office. That makes as much sense as wearing a fur coat to a July 4th barbeque in the Deep South; while it’s 106 degrees in the shade. Obstruction has consequences.

The Tao of Cantor’s third principle: a single enemy today will become a legion of enemies in the future. In theory, roughly half of the 11,000,000 immigrants who want desperately to become citizens here in America would become Republicans once naturalized.

One would imagine that the prospect of adding 5.5 million brand new, enthusiastic, tax-paying, law-abiding, God-fearing members under the GOP umbrella would be awesome. Au contraire, mon frère. Discarding or ignoring even one potential citizen is essentially hand-delivering that person, their children, their friends, their colleagues, and everyone in their sphere of influence to your political rival.

The GOP’s refusal to move on immigration reform costs them countless potential members – and votes – every single day. And once you lose those citizens on a huge political issue (such as Medicaid expansion, job creation, or deportation), you very likely lose them for good.

The shockwaves of Mr. Cantor’s defeat are only beginning to be felt. You see the handwriting on the wall. No politician is safe. Everyone’s job is up for grabs. The American people are sick of the broken promises, the gridlock, and the legalese. Business as usual simply isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Meanwhile, the war within the GOP’s leadership rages on.

Moving forward, the Tao of Cantor states that anyone who seeks political office for his or her own personal and professional benefit are on notice.

Democrats and Republicans who choose to govern for themselves and for their socioeconomic peers have been warned. Either fight for what’s right; or say good night. What happened to Eric Cantor will happen again.

The only questions are adverbs: who, what, when, where, and how.



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