Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


The Nagging Jewish Question About Cantor

A host of theories emerge after the Republican’s shocking primary defeat

Print Email
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor addresses a news conference after telling the Republican caucus that he will resign his post on June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

I suppose it was maddeningly instinctual for me to try to find anti-Semitism behind Eric Cantor’s shocking primary defeat last Tuesday. There was no overt reason to believe it; after all Cantor had represented Virginia’s 7th Congressional District for over two decades, and, as John Podhoretz pointed out in Commentary, the strong evangelical presence in Cantor’s district should have been a plus, noting “…evangelicals are more likely to be philo-than anti-Semitic.”

And yet; and yet. New York Magazine’s influential critic Jerry Saltz posted on Facebook (where he has 44,000+ followers): “Last night Roberta (wife Roberta Smith, a New York Times art critic) and I kept saying “Fuckers in Virginia got rid of the Jew.” The Forward’s J.J. Goldberg, another voluble observer of the Jewish scene, agreed with Saltz and Smith and titled his most recent column, “Did Eric Cantor lose because he’s Jewish? You Betcha.” In Goldberg’s take, “the prairie fire that’s turned so much of middle America red is as much about Christianity as anything else.” And, he added, “…if it’s about Christianity, then it’s also about not-Jewish.”

Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, saw the immigration crisis as the main cause of Cantor’s downfall, but offered a fascinating insight: “No one should be in party leadership who isn’t from a very safe seat. Leadership by necessity makes you look to the party as a whole, less to your district. You compromise and deal, you’re always on a plane, always fundraising, always helping someone five states away.” Which got me to wondering why in the world a man who had served seven consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, and had risen to its majority leader, did not have a seat considered to be “safe.”

How is it possible that a constituency had not awarded a ‘safe seat’ to one of its own, who had risen from 10 distinguished years in the Virginia House of Delegates, to one of the top legislative positions in the country? Scores of Congressional leaders owe their longevity to the “local-boy-makes-good” trope, but, for some reason, it didn’t apply to Cantor. As Alvy Singer says, while discussing his hyper-sensitivity to anti-Semitism in Annie Hall “I pick up on those kind o’ things.”

Previous: Eric Cantor Loses Republican Primary
Related: The Gentleman From Virginia: The Rise and Fall of Eric Cantor

Print Email

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

The Nagging Jewish Question About Cantor

A host of theories emerge after the Republican’s shocking primary defeat

More on Tablet:

Obama: Denying Israel’s Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland is Anti-Semitic

By Yair Rosenberg — The president draws a line in the sand in his latest interview