Lessons Celebrating Eric Cantor's Primary Loss

DDWho speaks today of Jim Wright or Dennis Hastert?

Eric Cantor is a name that will slip easily into the past, having achieved little on his watch expect his own ambitions, which now will remain forever incomplete. The ladder of success is a two-way passage, and Cantor obviously forgot the Old Testament teachings that, among the many meanings of Jacob’s ladder, is the changing affairs of human community. Tuesday, Cantor’s fates changed; his Congressional career and ambitions perished in a hell of his own making. He wakes up today to find the gates slammed shut on his dreams.

He earned his current infamy. Yet by all accounts, he never saw it coming. That he missed what should have been in plain sight is explained in the text of an old southern African proverb: A blind mule is never afraid of the dark.

Cantor’s blindness begins when he miscalculated the dynamics of his gerrymandered district, which runs from Richmond to the Washington suburbs. His briar patch of safety was filled with thorns and he got stuck, having created many reasons for personal grudges in a district both conservative, educated and middle class–“rich and stupid” is the shorthand I have used to describe it. Conservative, yes. Loyal, no. Reactionary, yes. Racist, yes. Invested in a Koch brothers-writ future? No. Despite Cantor’s loss.

His district, which contains a fair share of federal workers with civil service protected jobs, felt empowered to vote against the political establishment and Cantor, one of its major leaders. They have direct witness of the destructiveness of current politics.

Their paychecks were cut by sequestration, a House deal Cantor bragged he originated; their paychecks were stopped by the House-engineered government shutdown, which Cantor helped enable.

These conservatives saw in Cantor grandstanding and speech-making that brought no progress or stability, that instead attacked their own tenuous hold on what was a secure government lifeline, a civil service job, with college loans at the credit union, and good health care and a generous pension fund. For them, big government mean waste, fraud, and politics; they are anti-establishment, not necessarily anti-government. The unfair sharing of spoils to benefactors they are privy to daily drove them to the cynicism at the base of conservatism.

Their positions are more nuanced than tea party supporters in North Carolina, Georgia or Mississippi. They work in government. They simply want to eliminate what they see as its unfairness, the way the system is rigged to exploit families and workers.

Cantor stood alone, exposed against the backdrop of Washington’s giant machine, but also against the backdrop of the paper work and memorandums that crossed their desks and the themes of their meetings. In every decision, they could see Eric Cantor. Take away the partisanship and he was the establishment.

He wanted his district to overlook how deeply embedded he was in the establishment, but he overlooked the daily remainders they received. Like the repeated (fifty and counting!) meaningless votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. His smug, annoying arrogance and obvious love of power and partisan political combat didn’t help.

His district remembered he was eager to hold up federal aid after Hurricane Sandy until budget cuts “paid” for the emergency assistance to homeowners who lost everything, to others needed the basics of shelter and food. His district remembered too well that, in their time of desperation, he put the budget first, yet supported continuing tax breaks for corporations imploding with cash. Continue reading Lessons Celebrating Eric Cantor’s Primary Loss

The Differing Prices of Freedom and Profit

Recycling is a noble goal except when it comes to politics. Unless it’s a way forward, pushing the same ideas year after year is ignoble and ignorant. But yet again, we see the return of the single note of the dead horse of the tax cut, with the Republicans grabbing the crop and flailing away, going nowhere. Soundly rejected at the polls, they keep the idea alive that tax cuts are an idea that America can ride.

Rather than prosperity, their argument is really about power. In a government the size of America’s, more important than legislative power, the power to make laws, is budget power, the power to buy and cut, to control the purse. The advantage of politicizing the balance sheet is that buying and cutting happens outside of the public’s eye. Name the builder who got the plumbing contract for your local schools; name the company that makes the cockpit canopies for jet fighters; or the manufacturer of something as common as the military’s MREs (ready to eat meals); I can’t. Through government, we spend lots of money on things we don’t know about and have no idea how much they they cost. We also spend money on services—health care, food—that impact people directly, and these programs are well known.

The Republican path to power doesn’t involve innovation or efficiency; nor is its end goal savings. Their hunger for power recycles the buzz words “tax cut” because it opens the way to changes in the balance sheet and advances the Republican drive for power on different fronts at the same time.

One of the unique properties of democracy is that rights are expanded through government. By the same authority of government, rights can be diminished. For those with intra-gender preference, the expansion of rights to marriage, open military service, survivor’s benefits, child adoption, non-discrimination and job opportunities is tied directly to the powers of government, state and federal. The contraction of rights, say in a woman’s right to choose, also results from attacks led through government, aimed at the money spent to create the opportunities of reproductive choice. State legislation barred money from being used for choice procedures and has piled on building requirements that make it almost impossible to operate a clinic; the costs of the required modifications are too high. Continue reading The Differing Prices of Freedom and Profit