- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 12, 2014

The liberal pundits, Republican elites, Democratic politicians and K Street lobbyists are having a hard time ‘splainin’ how Eric Cantor lost his seat in Virginia this week, since it couldn’t have been about immigration. He took such a drubbing — it was a landslide in anybody’s book — that there must have been an evil reason.

The farther the wiseheads live from Virginia, the more certain they are that they know what they’re talking about. Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat with infallible insights into the mind of the Republican voter, says Mr. Cantor lost because he was a flip-flopper who wasn’t sufficiently fervent in his advocacy of an immigration deal pleasing to Barack Obama. What Mr. Cantor should have done, he says, was to endorse the infamous amnesty scheme of the Senate’s Gang of Eight.

“If you stand up and explain to the American people what the [Senate] bill is all about, you’re going to get support.” He cites a poll suggesting that 72 percent of Mr. Cantor’s constituents support immigration reform. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, but Mr. Durbin and his fellows omit the rest of the story, that the poll actually asked whether voters would support immigration reform that includes sealing the border against the tsunami of illegal immigrants now overwhelming the Border Patrol on the Rio Grande. Asked that way, who wouldn’t support reform? But that’s the kind of border security that everybody knows the Democrats would never vote to accept.


SEE ALSO: EDITORIAL: Why Eric Cantor lost


The New York Times, with its insights into everything (and nearly always wrong), thinks it has discovered the key to the demise of Mr. Cantor’s fortunes. “Mr. Cantor’s stunning upset loss on Tuesday — to a little-known economics professor, David Brat, who called his election ‘a miracle from God’ — has raised questions about whether anti-Semitism was at work.” Did Eric Cantor lose because he was Jewish?

The answer, The Times quickly concedes, is no. But why let a chance to smear benighted conservatives go to waste? No one had thought to malign the voters in Mr. Cantor’s district before, and he has been elected seven times. He was nominated two years ago with 79 percent of the Republican vote. “But analysts do say,” The Times account continues, with the “but” the suspicious reader knew was coming. “Mr. Brat — who has a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and often invokes God in his speeches — appeals to Christian conservatives in a way that Mr. Cantor simply cannot.”

Dave Brat, a Roman Catholic professor at a Methodist college with a Presbyterian theological degree, often invokes the name of God in his speeches, speaking of the “Judeo-Christian” origins of the American culture, and openly admits — the shame and the horror of it! — to a “belief in God.” He told interviewer Sean Hannity of Fox News on election night that he felt that “God acted through the people on my behalf.” Clergymen of every denomination, of course, routinely ask in prayer that God will guide the voters.


SEE ALSO: KEENE: Eric Cantor’s rising star flames out


Nevertheless, hearing someone speak of their faith and calling on God for guidance makes some people’s teeth itch. An analyst for the widely read Cook Political Report says the religious issue, the issue that almost nobody else noticed, was “the elephant in the room,” and says conservatives use evangelical language to establish “a comfort level” with voters that a Jewish candidate like Mr. Cantor can’t. The message here is plain: Believers who cite “the Judeo-Christian” ethic should clean up their language. Four-letter words are forgivable, but “faith” has one letter too many.

There were “hints of anti-Semitism” in Mr. Cantor’s first race for the House in 2000, The New York Times reports, a “whisper campaign” portraying his opponent as “the only Christian” in the race. The account does not say who the whisperers might have been, or that anybody else actually heard the whispering. Only one-quarter of 1 percent of the district population is Jewish, according to the Jewish Federations of North America.

There were not even whispers this time. “If there was an undertone or a hidden message somewhere,” Richard Grossman, a Jewish lobbyist and Cantor supporter in Richmond tells The New York Times, “the Jewish community would have reacted, and I would say our history has been that we may overreact.”

So much for that trial balloon, and the sore losers are back to trying to ‘splain away what really happened, that Mr. Cantor’s constituents were suspicious of squishy Republicans, and he allowed himself to be identified with the squish. It’s an occupational hazard for Republicans who can’t make up their minds who they want to be.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.