What does Eric Cantor’s loss mean? Gridlock until 2023
Gridlock is likely to rule the federal government until at least 2023. Why 2023? Because it may not be until after the 2020 Census that the Democrats have a good chance of regaining control of the House of Representatives.
As long as Republicans rule the House, compromise with Democrats is out of the question. Look at what happened to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in Tuesday’s GOP primary. Cantor is nobody’s idea of a compromiser. But because he did the minimum necessary to keep government operating — like voting to raise the debt ceiling and to end the government shutdown — Cantor was branded a traitor to the conservative cause. Cantor’s ultimate transgression? His Tea Party opponent displayed a photo of the House majority leader standing next to President Barack Obama. Oh, the horror!
The 2010 Republican landslide gave the party control of most state governments. The GOP-controlled state governments, which reconfigured congressional district boundaries after the 2010 census, drew lines that would protect and expand GOP control of the House. The next census is in 2020. That’s two presidential elections away.
If Democrats do well that year, they may be able to control enough state governments to redraw the lines in their favor. The new districts may be in effect for the 2022 election. The House elected in 2022 will take office in 2023. Maybe then gridlock will break. That’s a long time away. And a lot of maybes.
There’s another way to break gridlock, of course. All the country has to do is elect a Republican president in 2016. But that is looking more and more difficult as the Tea Party expands its influence over the GOP.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the most electable potential Republican presidential candidate. He may be the only electable potential Republican presidential candidate. But Bush committed the unpardonable sin of saying that many illegal immigrants come to the United States as an “act of love” for their families. Off with his head!
Cantor’s downfall is producing a leadership struggle among House Republicans. Right now, the three top GOP leaders all come from states that voted twice for Obama: House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Cantor (Virginia) and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (California). As a result, the Tea Party suspects them all of being impure.
The Republicans vying to replace them come from Texas and Georgia. Which means they face no constituency pressure to seek accommodation with Obama.
The Texas Republican Party just met in convention and approved a platform that calls for: conversion therapy for gays; abolition of a tiny number of Texas gun restrictions; U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations; an end to all affirmative action laws, and a quarterly mustering of the state militia — presumably to defend Texas against federal encroachments.
But the message of Cantor’s downfall is that the Old America is not giving up without a fight. The Old America is holed up in congressional-district redoubts, armed to the teeth and spoiling for a showdown.
Radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, who rallied the campaign to oust Cantor, observed after the vote that Virginia “is changing demographically very quickly, and Republican grass-roots voters understand that.”
Chris McDaniel, another former radio talk show host and Tea Party favorite, is poised to unseat Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) later this month. Campaigning at a Mississippi county fair, McDaniel told the Washington Post, “This is a peek back to a better time. I’m a Jeffersonian and a Reaganite, and I’d like to remember how good things once were.” An organizer for the Sons of Confederate Veterans told the Post, “Chris understands our heritage.”
The Old America may be losing the numbers game. But they have one important thing going for them: intensity. They come out to vote in low-turnout Republican primaries like the one that brought down Cantor. In the 2012 general election, Cantor got reelected with nearly 223,000 votes. In this week’s Republican primary — where any registered voter could participate — turnout was barely 65,000.
“Don’t discount intensity,” Patrick McSweeney, general counsel of the Virginia GOP told the New York Times. “When you marry intensity with this media opportunity that we didn’t have 10 years ago, it’s powerful.”
Intensity of opposition, not numbers, is the reason why immigration reform may now be dead for the foreseeable future. A new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution shows 62 percent of Americans in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens; 51 percent of Republicans agree. But David Brat, the victorious Tea Party candidate in Virginia, said on Fox News that illegal immigration was “the most symbolic issue that captures the differences between me and Eric Cantor.”
Republicans know they stand little chance of winning the White House unless they do better with the rapidly growing Latino vote. But Republicans also know that supporting any kind of immigration reform will target them for defeat in a party primary. Tea Party supporters will turn out to vote against them for that reason alone. Many anti-illegal immigration activists are single-issue voters. They’re like the National Rifle Association on gun control. They control the debate because a single issue drives their vote.
In presidential elections, Democrats can rally their base and overwhelm Republicans with numbers, as they did in 2012. What rallies Democrats is fear. Fear that if a Republican wins the White House, the entire legacy of the Clinton and Obama presidencies will be obliterated.
In midterm elections, that doesn’t happen. The PRRI-Brookings survey shows why. The data reveal a very strong relationship: Groups that are the most supportive of Obama (Democrats, African-Americans, young voters, Latinos) are the least likely to say they intend to vote this year. The Old America — whites, conservatives, seniors, Republicans — are far more enthusiastic about voting.
If Republicans have the advantage in midterm elections and Democrats win presidential elections, the outcome is unavoidable: gridlock.
PHOTO (TOP): House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) (L-R) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hold a news conference after a Republican Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
PHOTO (INSERT): President Barack Obama (L) sits alongside House Speaker John Boehner during the unveiling of a statue to honor civil rights activist Rosa Parks, in Statuary Hall in the Capitol in Washington, February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed