John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Why Did They Can Cantor?

Posted on June 10, 2014
Eric Cantor, official 113th Congress photo portrait.jpg

"Eric Cantor, official 113th Congress photo portrait" by United States House of Representatives - Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Eric Cantor is a fine man, has a great family, is incredibly hard-working and is a good conservative.

He did everything he could to slow down Barack Obama.  When he was whip, he worked his members to oppose the President’s stimulus package.  Not one GOP member voted with the President on that initial bill.

As the Republican Leader, he once again did everything in his power to stop the President in his tracks.  He scheduled thousands of votes to repeal Obamacare.  He successfully guided negotiations to cut discretionary spending to 2009 levels.  He scuttled efforts by the President to raise taxes in budget negotiations.  He refused to schedule a vote on comprehensive immigration reform.

And for all of these efforts on behalf of the conservative cause, what thanks does he get from Republican primary voters in his district?  He gets shown the door.

On its face, it’s absurd that the voters of Richmond would can their Majority Leader.  Why trade a proven leader who can control the legislative agenda, weigh in on behalf of federal regulators, get his phone call returned almost immediately by the President, and do a bunch of other intangible things for the district, for a backbencher who has no power and will have no power for years to come?

For two reasons.

First, Mr. Cantor didn’t spell out specifically to his constituents why having him as Majority Leader was useful to them.  I assume that was the case, given that he got only 28,000 votes in the primary.

And two, there is such resentment towards Washington, even though Richmond is only 2 hours away (as long as 95 isn’t completely screwed up, which it usually is), that the GOP primary voters simply didn’t care about Cantor’s clout.

And for more and more conservatives, even the mere mention of help from the Federal government sends them into convulsions.  And this has put some prominent Republicans into a tough spot.

Thad Cochran narrowly lost his primary, even though he is set to become the next Appropriations Chairman.  Mitch McConnell had a spirited primary challenge of his own.

Neither McConnell nor Cochran fully embraced their clout as a reason to vote for them in their primaries (although I think that will start to change), and I don’t think that Cantor did either.

And that is problematic, especially for those in leadership.

Being in Leadership is a pain in the ass.  You have to work all the time.  You have to raise tons of cash for your colleagues.  You have to travel all the time.  And you get nothing but grief, from you family, your colleagues and your constituents.

If you can’t tout your clout, what good is being in leadership?  If being a leader actually becomes a detriment to your reelection, why even bother to run for a leadership spot?

That’s the real question that comes to my mind.

Since the very beginnings of our Republic, being a leader in the Congress has been very, very good for the constituents of that leader.  It’s not just the bacon that is delivered back home, but also the ability to shape how the federal government treats your district.

For Republican primary voters (at least some of them), that all seems to be changing.  They don’t want their member of Congress to have any power.  They don’t want any bacon.  They don’t want any clout.

It’s a pretty stark departure from the past.  Maybe it’s for the best.  But I doubt it.

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