Last week House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in the Republican primary for his House seat; ending his time in the House of Representatives. A variety of theories have been advanced to explain why Cantor lost his seat to an unknown economics professor: he supported a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants, he failed to effectively campaign, his opponent had support from national right-wing pundits, he was fighting with local Republicans and activists for control of the Virginia Republican party, and the Republican leadership as a whole were disliked in his district. These are all valid and can be linked together to explain that Rep. Cantor was disconnected from the American people, especially people in his district, and focused on becoming the Speaker of the House rather than representing his constituents that have been struggling to gain economic security. Erick Erickson writes that, “In Virginia a couple of months ago, several residents of Cantor’s district groused that they were going to support Brat because they did not think Cantor was doing his job as a Virginia congressman. Others no longer trusted him…He kept his attention off his district, constituents, and conservatives while he and his staff plotted to get the Speaker’s chair.”
The effects of the Great Recession are still being felt and the overall well being of Americans has decreased making people unsatisfied with their government. Cantor, being part of the House leadership, could not and should not avoid the blame for the weak response by the government in tackling the economic problems that are facing regular Americans. His constituents saw that he was a Washington insider who is tone deaf to the struggles of ordinary American people. He lived in the Washington DC bubble where people are well off with 13 of the top 30 richest counties in America surrounding the city. On the day of the primary Cantor was not in his district to cast his own ballot and to get his supporters out to vote but rather in Washington Starbucks meeting with lobbyists.
In response to his election loss Eric Cantor stated on his website that, “the problems that people are facing in this country are a lot greater than any kind of setback — political setback, personal setbacks I’ve got. So I really am very focused on continuing on the mission that I’ve tried to be about here in Washington. It’s those reform conservative solutions that actually can be applied to people’s problems in the working middle class of this country, the poor, and for everyone.” If Cantor was so focused on his mission to help people with their problems, why was he voted out of office? These are empty words and his website illustrates that he was not focusing on top problem for Americans: unemployment and jobs.
As the second most powerful Republican in the House, Cantor could have been a powerful force to advance a pro-jobs agenda. Was he? No. His primary tracking tool to show the work he championed as Republican leader is still available: Job Tracker provides a list of legislation that the House passed that he believed would create jobs. The page has not been updated since the 112th Congress (2011–2012), despite being linked to a top hit on Google when you search for “Republican jobs plan.” According to his own website, Eric Cantor had done nothing on the jobs creation front for almost two years. And if he could not even maintain a list of what he was doing on the job creation front, what was Eric Cantor actually doing on the job creation front?
The question basically answers itself. He was trying to create the job he wanted for himself—Speaker of the House—with a callous disregard for the actual needs of his true constituents. And his constituents saw this. He was working to secure his next job, not to fix the jobs crisis afflicting the people he, and many others in Congress, are ostensibly elected to serve. We can all hope that Cantor’s colleagues—including the new leadership in the Republican House—get the message: start working on America’s jobs problems, not yours.