Cantormageddon: The Jewish Angle

Over at Mediaite, Jon Nicosia asks “Did Eric Cantor Lose Because He’s Jewish?“.

In a NYT piece written by Jonathan Weisman & Jennifer Steinhauer (ahem), the subject is broached albeit briefly, as doing so is only allowed by Jews, never gentiles (“Cantor’s Loss a Bad Omen for Moderates“):

David Wasserman, a House political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said another, more local factor has to be acknowledged: Mr. Cantor, who dreamed of becoming the first Jewish speaker of the House, was culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented and more conservative.

“Part of this plays into his religion,” Mr. Wasserman said. “You can’t ignore the elephant in the room.”

So… the same gentile electorate that elected Cantor to Congress in 2000 are now… anti-semites. Sounds similar to how the same white Americans who voted for The Organizer in 2008 were instantaneously categorized as racists when they voted against him in 2012, or for Tea Party candidates in 2010.

In The Washington Post, Michelle Boorstein (ahem) has a piece titled “Jews from both parties express regret at losing Cantor in Congress“:

Whenever Eric Cantor is in a room with fellow Jews, the Republican often is the odd political-man out. But the shocking defeat of the highest-ranking Jewish member of the House had Jews across the political spectrum nursing some tribal pride on Wednesday…

His defeat was a key topic of conversation Wednesday among Jewish political types from Washington to Israel, where the prominent Haaretz news Web site ran prominently a story headlined: “Cantor defeat an evil twist of fate.”

Much of Cantor’s conservative domestic politics are anathema to Jews, 7o percent of whom say they are Democrats or lean that way. But he played a unique role by advocating in the areas where many Jews are more conservative, particularly around the security of Israel and in public support for Jewish institutions.

“The partisan in me can’t help but be amused,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic media strategist who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and now serves many Jewish organizations. “But the Jewish communal professional in me thinks it’s not a good thing for the community.”

Rabinowitz and others mentioned Cantor’s support for measures such as bringing public funding to Jewish schools impacted by Hurricane Sandy or post-Sept. 11 funding for beefed-up security for synagogues and Jewish schools.

In Politico, Alexander Burns has a piece title “For Jewish Republicans: Oy vey“:

The dream of a Jewish Republican speaker of the House is no more.

With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s startling ouster in a primary election this week, the man who was on a track to be the highest-ranking Jewish official in American history now appears consigned to the status of a “Jeopardy” answer. His defeat has left Jewish organizations in both parties reeling, especially the GOP’s long-suffering Jewish coalition groups.

Cantor was – and for now, remains – the No. 2 Republican in a conference of 233 lawmakers. But for Jewish Republicans, Cantor is a singular figure, the only Jewish member of the House majority and the lone Jewish leader in a party that has strenuously courted the community in recent presidential elections, to little avail.

Now, with Cantor’s defeat, there’s no longer a point man to help organize trips to Israel for junior GOP lawmakers, as Cantor routinely did. Jewish nonprofits and advocacy groups have no other natural person in leadership to look to for a sympathetic ear. No other Republican lawmaker can claim to have precisely the same relationship with gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a primary benefactor of both the Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

And no other member can play quite the same role in promoting Jewish Republican congressional candidates, as Cantor did in one election after another. He is scheduled to headline a Long Island fundraiser this Saturday for Lee Zeldin, one of the few Jewish Republican House recruits this year…

As Democrats seek to cement a public perception of the GOP as an intolerant and homogenous party, the defeat of the nation’s leading Jewish Republican over his support for more relaxed immigration laws can only help.

And it now appears almost certain that the first Jew to lead one of the two chambers of Congress will come from the ranks of Democrats, where Jewish politicians including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New York Rep. Steve Israel already hold important roles of legislative and partisan leadership.

Still, several prominent Jewish Democrats expressed ambivalence on election night over the snuffing-out of a prominent Jewish political career and the elimination of a lonely figure in the House who looked – at the very least on the surface – like a receptive audience for Jewish-driven advocacy.

Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Committee, called it an especially bitter pill that Cantor went down to a challenger running to his right on immigration – as Moline put it, that Cantor “has been undone by an issue that they didn’t make much progress on, but that is reflective of Jewish values.”

“From the point of view of a Democrat, I’m not disappointed to see him go,” Moline said, acknowledging: “There is always a pride in the Jewish community when one of our own makes good, as I think there is in every community. So from that point of view, we’re disappointed, like we were disappointed when Rahm Emanuel gave up his quest to be the first Jewish speaker of the House.” [Huh?! Are white Christians allowed pride ‘when one of their own makes good’? – Ed]…

Former NJDC president David Harris, calling Cantor’s loss a “concern to nonpartisan Jewish organizations,” argued that the political takeaway for Jewish voters should be clear.

Jews are so well represented on the Supreme Court. They’re so well represented in Congress. But as a professional political class, Jewish Republicans are just not part of that party,” he said.

If Cantor played a critically important symbolic role for Republican Jews, it’s unclear whether his defeat will bring immediate consequences for policy. The GOP is a staunchly pro-Israel party, even if many of its members may have never set foot in a synagogue…

And as much as Cantor was an atypical Republican when it came to his ethnic identity, some Republican Jews shrugged at suggestions that his primary represented a real shift on substance. One GOP operative said he would be hard-pressed to name an important issue on which Cantor made the difference between success and failure for Jewish foreign policy groups, pointing out that Cantor supported defense cuts under the Budget Control Act that Jewish groups strenuously opposed…

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who serves on the RJC board, said that from a historical perspective Cantor’s defeat was “very sad – but my politics don’t revolve around my identity as much as they do my ideology.”

“It was a real point of pride to have Eric as a Jewish Republican. There are some other Jewish Republicans running in 2014,” Fleischer said. “Let’s wait and see.”

Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic public relations consultant who works with a range of Jewish groups, said that for non-partisan Jews, Cantor was “definitely a loss.” He cited Cantor’s reliable backing not just for Israel and tough-on-Iran policies, but also his attention to issues such as services for Holocaust survivors and support for the nonprofit sector.

“There are some in the community who are twisting themselves into pretzels tonight to figure out if it’s OK to comment on the race,” Rabinowitz said. “I have no love lost for him. I’m bemused tonight.”

There’s an astonishing amounts of ethnocentric tribalism in these articles, both between the lines and in the lines themselves, but that’s allowed for Jews and non-whites.

Never is it allowed for Anglo-Saxon whites.

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