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POLITICS: Campaigns

It's despicable to blame Eric Cantor's loss on his Judaism

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Virginia,Philip Klein,Republican Party,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Eric Cantor,Religion,Judaism,Dave Brat

Of all the explanations being offered for the surprising defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., the most despicable is the suggestion that he lost because he was Jewish.

This suggestion has popped up in both subtle and overt ways. In the New York Daily News, Norm Ornstein noted that Cantor "was highly visible as the only Jewish Republican in the House, in a district with a strong evangelical presence."

The New York Times reported that:

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.”

I'd expect that sort of thing from Ornstein, but it's more surprising and disappointing coming from Wasserman, who is typically a level-headed analyst driven by data.

Even dismissing the first six times Cantor was elected from his district between 2000 and 2010 due to the fact that the boundaries changed after the 2010 Census, one is still left with the reality that Cantor won his 2012 primary in the same district with 79 percent of the vote. So what makes more sense -- that Cantor was done in by a combination of the immigration issue, a backlash against Washington and Republican leadership and a broader neglect of his district -- or the fact that his district suddenly noticed that he was Jewish after all these years, a claim for which there is no supporting data?

In a particularly sleazy article, the Wall Street Journal's Reid Epstein wrote, "David Brat, the Virginia Republican who shocked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) Tuesday, wrote in 2011 that Hitler's rise 'could all happen again, quite easily.' Mr. Brat's remarks, in a 2011 issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, came three years before he defeated the only Jewish Republican in Congress."

Further down, the article quotes a passage about Christian morality in which Brat laments the fact that there wasn't more unified resistance against Adolf Hitler and worries that history could repeat itself. But throwing Hitler in with a reference to beating "the only Jewish Republican in Congress" attempts to imply something ugly.

As Commentary's John Podhoretz put it, Cantor's "Judaism had nothing to do with his loss, and the only reason for suggesting otherwise is to tar David Brat and the voters of the Seventh Congressional District in Virginia with the taint of anti-Semitism. Shameful."

On a side note, it's worth pointing out that another one of the post-primary narratives is that Brat was propelled to victory by the support of conservative talk radio show hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin.

So are we to believe that the same voters who were influenced by one of the nation's most prominent Jewish conservatives are simultaneously too anti-Semitic to vote for a Jew?

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