21 June 2014

A fissure in the dam of political reality: How Eric Cantor’s defeat foreshadows the coming apocalypse

For what could be a portrait of our own societal collapse, look to Robert Pattinson's dystopian drama "The Rover"

Andrew O'Hehir

The unexpected defeat of a sitting House Majority Leader by an obscure primary opponent in one of the safest of all deep-red gerrymandered seats is an event that cries out for interpretation – and we’ve been deluged with those all week long. Most political analysts agree that Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., was punished by Tea Party Jacobins, who perceive him as squishy on immigration and lacking in ideological purity. That might sound like a funny way to describe a guy who has been the ultimate embodiment of an intransigent, obstructionist, do-nothing Congress, but the Tea Partyers had a point. (We’ll get to that.) Or maybe Cantor was ousted by “savvy Democrats” who crossed over to vote against him in Virginia’s open-primary system, or was a victim of covert anti-Semitism, as a Jewish congressman from a district rich in evangelical conservatives.

Maybe the unlikely primary victory of economics professor David Brat demonstrates that money doesn’t matter in politics as much as people think (since Cantor’s campaign outspent Brat’s many times over), and maybe it was the result of a long-term strategy and “dark money” from libertarian billionaires. Maybe the result is a welcome wakeup call for the Republican Party, and maybe it’s a boost to the Democrats’ chances of retaking the House in November (which were, and still are, slim to none). But the people on both sides trying to argue those positions are partisan hacks, desperately trying to spin the Cantor-quake such that it fits into the established Manichaean narrative of American politics. Which it clearly does not. In fact, I would argue that Cantor’s defeat is bad news for both parties and for the stagnant system they represent. If anything, it may signify a nascent or immanent threat to that system.


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