Defeated Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor discovered Wednesday that it doesn’t take long to go from being a powerful political leader to a unnecessary and unwanted has-been in Washington.
After his loss at the polls to a virtually unknown challenger Tuesday, Cantor found that Republicans who once jockeyed for his help and support wanted nothing more to do with him. House Speaker John Boehner, while publicly praising Cantor, told him in a private meeting to step down as House Majority Leader immediately so a shocked Republican Party could get on with the business of replacing him and moving on.
After that meeting, Cantor announced his resignation as the second-most powerful member of the House of Representatives and his once-close allies began jockeying to replace him.
Such is the nature of politics in Washington. From 1987-92, as vice president for political programs for the National Association of Realtors, I directed what was then the largest political action committee in the nation and any and all members of Congress took my calls. As soon as I left and went back to my roots as a newspaperman, I would be lucky to get a return call from the press secretary or his or her assistant.
In his brief run as one of the power elite on Capitol Hill, Cantor was once the favored golden boy of the tea party but fell out of favor because he had the gall to actually suggest compromise as a way to accomplish things.
He voted for a debt-limit increase to keep the government from defaulting on loans — a bad move in a political environment where regression — not progression — is preferred. He — God forbid — suggested that America — a land founded by immigrants — seal off its borders and throw out anyone not born in what was once the land of the free and the home of the brave.
But as Cantor rose in the ranks of Republican leadership, he forgot that he was still supposed to be a Congressman from Virginia. The folks back home felt neglected and those who sought to throw him out seized on that as a way to get rid of him.
Cantor was an odd fit in a Congressional cabal of mostly male, white hard-core “Christian” Republicans. He was the only Jew in the GOP ranks in the House and that rankled some of the good old boys who complained privately about his “lack of Christianity.”
After his election loss Tuesday, he returned to a Capitol Hill that wanted nothing more to do with him.
Some say Congress will be a better place without an Eric Cantor in its midst. Others wonder if whoever replaces him will be better…or worse.