Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mr. Nolove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Eric Cantor

I've always suspected that Representative Eric Cantor would seriously damage the Republican Party.  I am happy to see that my predictions have come true.
Cantor is the Republican Whip for the 111th Congress, and as such he has emerged as a major strategist for Congressional Republicans.  Cantor seems to be the primary architect of the "justy say no to everything" strategy being pursued by Congressional Republicans.  Cantor's strategy is backfiring, driving the Republican Party's approval numbers ever lower.
The very fact that Cantor is in such a critical leadership role at this point speaks volumes about the GOP's current crisis.  Cantor is from Virginia's 7th Congressional District, among the nation's most conservative.  Cantor holds one of the safest, if not the safest, seats in the Republican Party.  With such a safe seat, Cantor sees no reason to moderate his tone for anyone.  He prefers to pander to the most extreme fringe of the Republican Party.  Cantor does not tolerate dissent and insists that Republicans in the House of Representatives vote unanimously.
All of which plays into Democratic hands.  Having Cantor at the helm damages the GOP in many ways, but the very oligarchical structure of the GOP makes it difficult for the GOP to rid itself of Cantor.  Here are some of the negatives that Cantor brings to the GOP table:
  • A lack of Flexibility - Cantor is an ideological extremist and will always move to validate right-wing ideology.  He is incapable of making pragmatic compromises, even when such compromises might move the GOP forward.  Having Cantor at the helm takes away the GOP's ability to maneuver precisely when the ability to maneuver is most needed.
  • Cantor has skeletons - Cantor oozed his way to the top of the GOP during a particularly corrupt time in GOP history.  Cantor's mentors and friends included Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff.
  • Cantor is error prone - Cantor fancies himself a mover and shaker.  He likes to put himself out front and stir things up, but mostly the things he stirs up come back to embarrass him.  Were it not for the fact that he holds one of the safest Republican seats in the United States, some of these errors would be career ending. 
  • Cantor's decision to back a bailout of the bank where his wife works, but to oppose any bailout of any other business. 
  • Cantor's decision to circulate a profanity-laced video attacking a union that supported the stimulus package. 
  • Cantor's putting out a music video celebrating the Republican House caucus' decision to unanimously oppose the stimulus package.  Cantor used a song that celebrates prostitution and casual sex as a means of regaining one's feeling of self-worth, and he used it without proper licensing.  Cantor was forced to take the video down days after putting it online.
What Republicans are going to discover over the coming months is that Cantor is not the right person to lead a GOP renaissance, instead he will be a significant and growing drag on the Republican Party.  Cantor is a poor leader, but the Republicans will discover to their chagrin that they have very little mechanism for reining Cantor in or replacing him.  For better or worse, and most likely the worse, Eric Cantor will have a large role in determining the fate of the Republican Party.  As a Democrat, I find that fact reassuring.

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