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Eric Cantor’s Defeat Is Also Netanyahu’s

Of course it isn’t yet clear what Eric Cantor’s stunning and decisive defeat at the hands of an unknown challenger with one twentieth the campaign funds means for the direction of the House GOP. On domestic issues, including immigration, Cantor has been a chameleon—an establishment figure, a reformer, a “young gun,” a Tea Party insurgent with legislative tactician skills, a supporter of immigration reform (aka amnesty), and then a professed opponent of the same immigration reform. (I should note there was a time, in the 1990s, when immigration “reform” [1] meant tightening the borders and tinkering with the legal immigration system so it was more skills-based, less based on “your brother’s wife got in a few years ago, so you are now eligible for a visa.”) The only ads I’ve seen from David Brat, the surprising victor, attacked Cantor’s readiness to hang out with big-money immigration boosters (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) while ignoring the labor market and wage impact large-scale immigration has for voters in his district.

One issue wasn’t talked about, though I wonder if it subliminally registered with some anti-Cantor voters. Cantor in 2010 more or less presented himself as Bibi Netanyahu’s congressman. Newly elevated by the GOP House takeover as the incoming majority leader, he held a private meeting with the Likud leader at the New York Regency. No other Americans were present; Netanyahu was joined by Israel’s ambassador and national security advisor.

It was a tense time in American-Israeli relations: the Obama administration was pushing hard for progress on peace talks and trying to get Israel to stop expanding settlements on the West Bank during the negotiations, an idea vigorously resisted by Israel’s government. During the meeting, Cantor gave Netanyahu assurances that the House would have his back in any showdown with the Obama administration. The Republicans, he told Bibi, “understand the special relationship” and would obstruct American initiatives which made Israel uncomfortable. Ron Kampeas, a veteran and centrist observer of U.S.-Israeli relations, said he could not “remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.” So Cantor was, in his way, making history.

The ties to Israel made Cantor popular in the GOP caucus. Cantor could raise money [2] more easily than other southern congressmen—from pro-Israel billionaires [3], for example—and spread it around. Sheldon Adelson poured millions into his PAC. Cantor knew his way around the Regency.

More recently, Cantor has spearheaded House opposition to Obama’s negotiations with Iran, speaking frequently of Iran in terms that echo Netanyahu. His Mideast positions track completely with Likud’s, whether it be aid to the Syrian rebels or aid to Egypt after the Sisi coup. He may be hard to pin down domestic issues, one day a moderate, another a hard rightist, but he is always a hawk—whether it be Ukraine or Syria or Iran, he will be a force pushing the most belligerent policies.

I wonder if this registered in the district in some ways. Pat Lang, of the interesting Sic Semper Tyrannis blog, meditated [4] on Cantor (his congressmen) several years ago, wondering whether this sophisticated Richmond lawyer was a natural fit for a district that trends barbecue. Some have pointed to an ethnic angle, which could well be a factor. But it may be simply that conservative southern Republicans are beginning to get tired of neocons telling them they have to prepare to fight another war. Antiwar Republican Walter Jones won his North Carolina primary earlier this spring, standing strong against a major media assault [5] by Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel. Now, in an election result that stunned political observers more than anything that happened in their lifetime, Cantor goes down before an underfunded Tea Party candidate.

We’ll see what happens with David Brat, but he’s already made history.

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#1 Comment By Daniel S. On June 12, 2014 @ 8:09 am

The neo-con agenda won’t be affected by Cantor’s loss. It is so thoroughly infused in U.S. policy it is beyond one person, or even groups, to affect. The neo-con madness to start a war against the Syrian government on behalf of Al Qaeda was carried out by the Nobel Peace Prize winner and a lot of left-wing, humanitarian bombardiers.

#2 Comment By Magdaleni On June 12, 2014 @ 9:09 am

The bench of Republicans supporting Israel is fairly deep. Others will step up.

#3 Comment By icarusr On June 12, 2014 @ 9:28 am

“the labor market and wage impact large-scale immigration has for voters in his district.”

Oh, for Heaven’s sake, of course he has to ignore both, because anti-immigrant animus has nothing to do with either. You want to protect labour and increase wages, you need to do two things. First, you empower unions to give workers more bargaining power; second, you make illegals legal, so they start paying taxes and being protected, and stop being exploited.

The “Temporary Foreign Worker” scandal in Canada is a case in point. It was meant to relieve temporary labour shortages; it has turned into a means of depressing both white and blue-collar wages in certain (mostly antiunion) markets.

But you can’t claim to be concerned about the impact of illegal immigration on wage depression, and in the next sentence turn around and wonder out loud if you need minimum wage laws. It does not compute.

#4 Comment By CharleyCarp On June 12, 2014 @ 11:46 am

I’d go a step further, icarusr. Retirees — those who shop at Walmart and those who do not — have a strong interest in low wages for employees providing good and services they consume, and in a growing population to support their benefits into the future. One would do better assuming that their opposition to immigration, like their opposition to “socialized medicine” for people under 65 (but certainly not for people 65 and older!), is primarily cultural.

You certainly can’t talk to pretty much any of them without getting this made perfectly clear.

(As always, it’s a big country, and there are exceptions to everything.)

#5 Comment By Regency America On June 12, 2014 @ 11:51 am

Re Cantor’s meeting at the Regency with Netanyahu was jarring, to say the least. Think of it: his first act after being elected Majority Leader in the House was to meet with a foreign leader and promise to advance a foreign agenda against our own President.

Less reported at the time, Netanyahu summoned Senator Charles Schumer to a private meeting during the same visit. Schumer has been hovering expectantly and increasingly impatiently behind Harry Reid for quite a while, and Netanyahu’s expectations doubtless parallel those he had for Cantor.

Cantor’s service to America, such as it was, may be over, but his service to Israel will likely continue.

#6 Comment By Johann On June 12, 2014 @ 11:53 am

Increase the supply of a product or service – the price goes down.

OK then, lets fix the price so that it can’t go down. Result – the supply will increase even more, but there will be an unused surplus of the product or service, whether its crops rotting in the fields or unemployed unskilled workers sitting rotting at home.

#7 Comment By M_Young On June 12, 2014 @ 11:55 am

“First, you empower unions to give workers more bargaining power; second, you make illegals legal, so they start paying taxes and being protected, and stop being exploited.”

Part of unions’ bargaining power derives from a tight market. In addition, ethnic solidarity (or lack thereof) is a big part of organizing. I once heard, personally, a labor organizer talking about how his efforts among ‘Latino’ workers being undermined by the employers bringing in Somalis and Bosnians.

Further, illegals will not be paying taxes, other than the ones (minimal) they already pay, like sales and property (indirectly) taxes. The Center for Immigration Studies has analyzed the proportion of immigrant households (legal and illegal) that receive some form of federal assistance. Three fourths of Mexican immigrant households did. So their economic profile means that, once legalized, most will be getting things like the EITC.

“But you can’t claim to be concerned about the impact of illegal immigration on wage depression, and in the next sentence turn around and wonder out loud if you need minimum wage laws. It does not compute.”

Sure it does. A tight labor market means that wages will rise naturally. See recent reports about McDonald’s workers in the gas fields of the upper midWest making $15 per hour, without the need for government intervention.

Finally, a tight labor market means that some jobs will go away as too expensive. More healthy middle aged men will be forced to mow their lawns in SoCal or Northern Virginia. Housewives might have to enlist their kids help in order to wash the minivan. And that is all to the good.

#8 Comment By LarryS On June 12, 2014 @ 11:59 am

The market mechanism for wages is supply and demand.
That mechanism is being manipulated in favor of business by off-shoring jobs and immigration. The call for an increase in the minimum wage is an effort to keep people from continuing to lose purchasing power.

Ann Coulter is right: the US should have the same immigration policy as Israel.

Evangelicals need to get over the false belief that before the Second Coming of Jesus, Israel needs to extend its borders “from the river in Egypt to the Euphrates River (in Iraq)”, destroy the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque and build a Third Temple for the coming Anti-Christ.

#9 Comment By cameyer On June 12, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

I think Scott knows others will step in to Cantor’s place in supporting Israel. What’s important is that the private conversation with Netanyahu was followed by an invite for Bibi to address Congress – on the same trip he attacked President Obama for restating US policy regarding border talks based on pre-1967 lines. The fact Cantor met alone with Netanyahu is very disturbing. And the majority leader has more tricks to use in pushing or defeating legislation.

#10 Comment By James Canning On June 12, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

I very much agree that defeat of Eric Cantor is a defeat for Bibi Netanyahu.

#11 Comment By Tony D. On June 12, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

I’d be very curious to know what kinds of overtures (read: pressure, subtle and otherwise) Professor Brat has been getting since Tuesday. For instance, has he been briefed/debriefed by AIPAC yet? I bet he has.

#12 Comment By collin On June 12, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

This seems a bit of a stretch here as there a lots of Christian Rs that would be more than happy to back Israel and Netanyahu against the Obummer administration. The main issue Brat fought against was Cantor’s sort against Immigration Reform and Laura Ingraham was Brat’s biggest talk radio supporter. (And Laura is the leader of the anti-immigrant movement.)

#13 Comment By KXB On June 12, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

It does appear that white voters in the South, while they are not going Democrat anytime soon, are no longer sold on the policies of mainstream Republicans. They see Republican politicians that urge us to intervene in every foreign conflict, when it cannot set a budget deal in DC. They take about the glories of the free market, while donors get sweetheart deals and tax breaks. They hear talk of controlling spending, but never seem to get around to shutting loopholes, because that would be a :tax increase.”

#14 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On June 12, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

Support for the Zionist cause became conflated in the minds of many with muscular conservatism. This is particularly true of southern protestant conservatives, who relate mere to the old testament. Cantor’s tribal reasons for his zionism may have been that proverbial bridge too far. It’s ordinary southern conservatives children who got to fight and die in Cantor’s favorite wars.

With the farce that is Iraq farce in its final act, we need to take the fight to the neocons for the waste of life and treasure their underhanded treason caused.

#15 Comment By TruthTeller On June 12, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

“second, you make illegals legal, so they start paying taxes and being protected, and stop being exploited.”

No, you need to make illegals illegal and deport them so that companies do not have an excess of slave laborers that they can pay next to nothing for work, out-competing Americans for good wages.

#16 Comment By JamesDDean On June 12, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

The problem with your Israel theory is missing on one important fact. Southern Christians are huge spiritual supporters of Israel. Mr. Cantor lost the election because he chose to side with the US Chamber of Commerce and the Bushes on immigration.

#17 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On June 12, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

I see Klein over at NRO is accusing you of the usual crime of noticing what actually happens.

#18 Comment By Tyro On June 12, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

it may be simply that conservative southern Republicans are beginning to get tired of neocons telling them they have to prepare to fight another war.

The Southern white voters have always been the constituency that agitates for war, so this seems rather difficult to believe.

#19 Comment By Faramarz Fathi On June 12, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

“as the incoming majority leader, he held a private meeting with the Likud leader at the New York Regency. No other Americans were present; Netanyahu was joined by Israel’s ambassador and national security advisor.”

Nothing extraordinary when the Israeli Prime Minister meets with a member of his Knesset on Capitol Hill. After all, the record number of standing ovations he received in Congress just corroborates the fact he is more at home and popular in DC than Tel Aviv.

Faramarz Fathi

#20 Comment By RP_McMurphy On June 13, 2014 @ 8:26 am

“David Brat, the surprising victor, attacked Cantor’s readiness to hang out with big-money immigration boosters … while ignoring the labor market and wage impact large-scale immigration has for voters in his district.”

Which would be … what, exactly? Virginia’s 7th District is 5% Hispanic, 4% Asian. The apparent epicenter of Brat’s support, Hanover County, is 2% Hispanic, 1.5% Asian. I have a hard time believing the economic impact of “large-scale” immigration is especially evident from that vantage point. Likewise, I strongly suspect Tuesday’s electorate was disproportionately elderly and economically secure (Hanover County’s median household income is $75,000), further diminishing the likelihood that (experienced) wage competition via immigration accounts for Brat’s upset victory.

#21 Comment By bill nieuwkerk On June 13, 2014 @ 9:55 am

So, Scotty, what your saying is that southerners are inherently anti-semitic, interesting

#22 Comment By Mia On June 13, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

It’s getting to the point where I’m agreeing with people on the far-right more than I agree with people in the muddy middle. The great divide is the right’s nativism and my believe that everyone is equal. However, there are times where I am in complete agreement with the right even though I agree with little on social issues. I hope also that Thad loses his primary. I don’t think Cantor’s loss was about immigration. That’s just a useful meme Brat used to beat him over the head with, but I think people in general are getting irritated with Congressman who are becoming billionaires just by being a congressman or a politician. I agree that this feeder system from Congressman to lobbyist has got to stop, because all they do is provide job security to each other. I tell you the life, liberty, and freedom of government does ring true, if we want government and corporations to quit making us slaves so they can profit. I believe in good government, but there just isn’t much of it right now. I don’t know how long its going to take for politicians to get it, but I’m completely enjoying these upsets.

P.S. The reason I didn’t vote for Hillary in 2008 because she was too establishment. I agree with her on social issues, but the big knock on her I think Republicans can exploit is that she operates under the cronyism style of government. She still hasn’t learned to take criticism from anyone, blames the media for everything goes wrong, and at times comes off as a woman who thinks she’s once again entitled to the presidency.

#23 Comment By Clint On June 13, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

Actually,Virginia’s 7th Congressional District’s median income is $64,751 and is 4.9% Hispanic,3.9% Asian and 17.1% Black. 12.7% are foreign born and 20.1% speak a language other than English at home.

Dave Brat ran on The Republican Party of Virginia’s Creed and beat Eric Cantor.

#24 Comment By warm breeze On June 14, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

“The Southern white voters have always been the constituency that agitates for war”

Ever read the New York Post or the Wall Street Journal? Between their staff and their readerships there’s no more bloodthirsty or bellicose constituency in the country.

I’ll give you this much: the Southern white is heavily represented in the military and generally pays a disproportionate share of the butcher bill. And once a war is underway the Southern white voter stands behind the military. But those “agitating for war” tend to be shirkers wielding pens, computer keyboards or microphones somewhere in the northeast corridor.

#25 Comment By James Marshall On June 15, 2014 @ 10:42 am

A lot of people are doing backflips to avoid the truth about Cantor. Eric Cantor didn’t do his job and saw his office as merely a platform for his personal opinion and personal career ambitions.

It’s that simple. Brat will stand up and say that his loyalties are with his constituents and not a political party or personal interest. Duh? Is this really that confusing?

#26 Comment By Trevor On June 16, 2014 @ 4:42 am

Most people in the rural Virginia Counties that Cantor represented couldn’t care less about Israel. Cantor lost the election because he became a creature of Washington and completely forgot about the people he was elected to represent.

#27 Comment By M_Young On June 16, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

“I don’t think Cantor’s loss was about immigration. That’s just a useful meme Brat used to beat him over the head with, but I think people in general are getting irritated with Congressman who are becoming billionaires just by being a congressman or a politician. ”

Uh, why was it a useful issue? Why was it the effective one? Brat could have run more directly on ‘crony capitalism’ or TARP or whatever. But he chose, and increasingly focussed on immigration. Because that issue worked, and it worked because people are tired of mass immigration.