The title of this section of MillersTime is The Outer Loop, referring to the outer loop of the Washington Beltway.
It’s meant to be a forum I use to comment, on occasion, about what is happening in our nation’s capital as well as beyond it. It is also a place where I can link to articles, ideas, and thoughts about issues other than baseball, family and friends, or escapes and pleasures.
Friends often ask Ellen or myself to explain what’s happening in Washington, as if our living inside the Beltway might give us some understanding of just what’s going on here or what is going to happen.
When you’re deeply lost in the trees, it’s certainly hard to know what the forest really looks like.
Note the surprise this week by virtually everyone within the Beltway of the upset of Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a college professor in the VA 7th District primary.
When I saw reference to Cantor’s loss Tuesday night, I thought there must be some mistake. In the previous days, I had been reading that the only unknown about this primary was by how much Cantor would win and would it propel his advancement to Speaker of the House and beyond.
But what I read was not a mistake.
The mistake was Cantor’s, his handlers, and all the journalists, pundits, politicos and commentators who claim to understand Washington.
Clearly, none of them understood Virginia’s 7th District.
Yet immediately, all those who had been wrong about what was going to happen in the primary began to tell us why he lost. Their analyses changed over the next few days, as the enormity (the surprise to them) of the loss was dissected.
Only 12% of the registered voters of the 7th District voted, and the margin of victory in percentage terms was significant (more than 10%), but the actual number of people voting who contributed to Cantor’s dethroning was small.
So was this an example of Tip O’Neill’s “All Politics is Local” or was it something broader?
Did Cantor lose because of a low turnout of voters? Did he lose because he had gotten too distant from his roots, too taken with his own career, not conservative enough for the voters of his district? Was it because he was “too liberal” on some issues, particularly immigration? Or what?
I don’t know.
I do know I was delighted that Cantor lost. (Tho Ellen did warned me that the results of his loss might be even worse for governance in Washington.)
I believe that he, more than anyone else, was responsible for the gridlock in the House. As Obama was taking office, Cantor was planning a strategy for the next four (eventually eight) years to block any and all efforts for the new president to get legislation enacted.
And Cantor was enormously successful in that effort.
I have no idea what will happen now. As I write this, it seems as if Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Cantor’s choice for next Majority Leader, will succeed him to second in command. Rep. McCarthy, by all accounts, is marginally less conservative than Cantor.
There was an article yesterday in the NYTimes by liberal columnist Paul Krugman entitled, The Fix Isn’t In: Eric Cantor and the Death of a Movement.
Whether Krugman has more insight than any of the rest of us, I truly don’t know. Certainly some of his conclusions seem premature and odd to me.
Take a look and see what you think.
For those of you outside of the forest (DC), what do you think is going on?
Ben Shute said:
I, too, was delighted that Cantor lost, but also agree with Ellen that the result will probably be bad for governance, at least in the short term.
Thanks for the link to the Krugman piece. I suspect that he’s a better economist than political analyst and that there may be some wishful thinking in his column.
I find that I feel increasingly partisan – I believe that those who since Obama’s election have consistently worked to block every one of his initiatives while at that same time demonizing and delegitimizing him have done this country a grave disservice. Cantor didn’t do it alone, but he was among the leaders of the pack.
More generally, there may be nothing new about politicians stoking fear and appealing to our basest instincts, but let’s hope that Lincoln was right about all of the people all of the time.
(Best to Ellen.)
It is kind of you to consider me “outside the beltway” — I’ll take the moniker for the moment. From the far away land of Chicago, I want to share how crushing my disappointment was that I was going to come to work on Weds morning and no one, other than my friend who went to Georgetown and used to work on political campaigns, was going to want to talk about this. Perhaps its time to move home.
Personal reflections aside, I have no well-crafted ideas. From the conversations I’ve had, Cantor seemed to suffer from the same problem that Romney did — namely, bad internal polling numbers — which made him lazy in the lead-up to the election. As for the larger question of how this may reflect a sea change in the chaos of the Capitol building — I doubt it. I’m with Lawrence Lessig on this one. Until we change the fact that all elected officials are beholden to dollars, there won’t be a lot of movement on anything. Sure, Cantor didn’t help, but I think he’s the symptom more than the cause. And voters in VA’s 7th were reacting to that, even though they didn’t know it, more than anything else.
max l. shapira said:
I never respond to these kind of open ended exposure of personal feelings about such matters but am compelled to refresh the oft forgotten environment that when Obama was elected the Democrats controlled the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. As I best recall from my days in Civics class in grade school this is about as a lock cinch hold on government as one could want. (Oh yes, I forgot a generally liberal and sympathetic Court system like the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals et al)
So Eric Cantor laid out a plan, even though in the minority, to block all of the following elements of the President’s agenda: close Gitmo, pass Card Check, pass Cap and Trade, immigration reform, Health Care (which he did pass and which the country does not like) among many other initiatives. The facts are that the President couldn’t even get his own party on board or he would have passed everything on his agenda before the country caught on to what was involved and turned life upside down in the election of 2010.
~ g said:
with all the illegal and dangerous activity inside the beltway and outside, THIS is the best you can do????? and you even got that partly wrong….
cantor spent a little over $5M, mostly on media adverts. brat spent a little under $200K, but talked to the people, directly. cantor forgot the basic reason he was there…. to represent his constituents. (i am neither a fan nor detractor of cantor, though ~ yes, richard, it is spelled THOUGH, not THO ~ but he is better than many already there) the quote is closer to “all politics are local” and it is a demonstrable fact that the “tea” party has always been a grass-roots, local phenomena. this was a clear message to the arrogant dirtbags who make a career out of politics, that it is, and always has been, the PEOPLE who own this country. cantor forgot his priorities and in the whole campaign, never once showed up in person…. no town halls, now personal rallies… NOTHING. pure and simple, he felt he was above accountability ~ a common failing among politicians…. and others…. he just felt that he didn’t have to justify his behaviour or earn his place. so he got a boot in his arrogant ass…..
next…. of all that is going on in d.c., THAT was the ONLY thing you could come up with, after baseball and your grandkids??? how in the hell did you EVER become (or WANT to be) a history teacher…. you have failed to give any focus on the realities of the world… and they ARE DIRE…. and DIRECTLY the result of the current administration’s illegal activities, naiveté, and ignorance.
let’s start with the basic premise that our current president is brilliantly competent and totally misunderstood by ALL surrounding and even opposing him. he is doing EXACTLY what he promised he would, and in doing it, have violated both the law and the constitution and unilaterally dismantling this country, it’s laws and it’s constitution.
1: he IS a “manchurian candidate”…. he has committed treason by “giving aid and comfort to the enemy, in time of war”. eg. bengazi, the ‘gitmo’ 5.
2: he has recreated the “chamberlain” effect with putin, with regards to ukraine and the eastern block and nato. not to mention that he has allowed north korea to destabilize the entire peninsula and even china is forcing encroachments on the north china sea and causing japan to secretly re-arm, in self-defense, since we are not supporting them.
3: the, almost hourly, situation in iraq, where he has undone 8-9 years of gain, at the cost of american blood and treasure. continually supporting our enemies while doggedly undermining and failing to support our (once) friends and allies… (even the taliban is backing away from the radical isis group….)
4: the unilateral amnesty messages on our southern border. 47K kids in the last 3 months overwhelming the bp…
5: the irs scandals ~ weaponizing the irs for political purposes, then lying about it.
6: the nsa scandals ~ spying on us citizens, failure to catch the traitor…. lying to the american people about it….
7: eric holder, and his illegal acts, failures to prosecute cases based on law but prosecuting based on political alignments. acts going back to “fast and furious”.
8: the VA disgrace ~ one that even has staunch liberal/progressives blanching and backing away. lying about it.
9: domestic economic recovery progress being unbelievably dismal (as in about as slow as 1945)
10: unilateral disarmament of the US military
11: “obama care”
12: hillary/secretary of state/bengazi disgrace
13: domestic energy (lack of) production/policy
14: alienating ALL our FRIENDS, as well as our enemies….
15: unilaterally creating the largest and MOST INCOMPETENT federal governmental machine that is dismantling almost ALL law/legal avenues.
16: harry reed sitting in front of any form of legislation to solve problems (and there are about 49 of them that i can remember off the top of my head ~ and only 1 is “obama care”)
17: complete abandonment of our one true and stabilizing ally in the middle east, israel, and undermining their efforts and failing to share intel. add to that, the unilateral decision to allow iran to become nuclear.
18: hillary clinton’s undeclared bid for 2016, with a book and tour, attempting to diffuse and/or discount her lack of creds of ANY kind; lying about her finances; lying about her roll in bengazi; and her general political failures as everything from 1st lady to secretary of state.
19: the “outing” of THE senior bureau chief of a country in time of war… basically, outing the chief cia operative, putting every op in danger of exposure….
i could go on and on, but i can’t even keep up with the almost hourly scandals and mishaps, lies and obfuscations, errors, miscalculations and incompetence that are the trademarks of this current administration, congress and government. taxes are through the roof, and our corporate taxes the highest in the world, causing companies to leave and/or hide assets out of the country. state rights and prerogatives trampled. federal government doubled in size. bonuses for doing illegal acts being routine….
and all you can think of is eric cantor was defeated because he wasn’t doing his job……
DAMN!!!! you irritate the HELL out of me….
go back to your baseball…. as boring as those missives are, they display less of your lack of understanding of what is happening around you…. it is people just such as you who are hastening the destruction of this country, and the sad part is you don’t even see how close it is….
I agree with M Shapira. I love how Democrats
Forget history or turn it upside down I for one would throw out almost everyone in Congress. And start over with new election rules
It seems to me that since Obama’s election America is more split then ever. Also less respected by other countries.
Maybe Virginians were tired of all the lies and crazy regulations
Joe Higdon said:
My guess is the defeat of EC doesn’t mean much at all. An insignificant number of people voted and a meaningless self-serving politician loss his job. It probably saved us from having rudderless person being speaker of the House. So we will have another meaningless self-serving person be speaker of the House. No one will know the difference. By November EC will be another forgotten politician. The press always builds these thing up in to mountains so they have something to write about. Will the House be more obstructionist than before. How could this be so? Will it be less, I doubt it. If it has any meaning, and I doubt this, but it might further drive the GOP to the cliff it has been heading toward since 1994
Doug Wolf said:
My, my, who would have thought your calmly asking for thoughts about the meaning of Cantor’s defeat could have prompted a response like the above screed. Yikes.
Tho the ranter seems put out by your “tho,” my dictionary is comfortable with it, and, also, it certainly seems like you’re right about the quote, “All politics is local.” It’s too nice a day to say anything about his capitalization, spelling or punctuation.
Issa’s Benghazi hearings? I’m so surprised he hasn’t expanded the scope to cover the 9 to 13 embassy attacks that occurred under Obama’s predecessor or the 13-17 diplomats killed.
Obamacare? From 1994 to 2008 we know what leadership the congressional republicans provided in addressing what everyone understood was an untenable skyrocketing of health insurance premiums. We also know they did nothing but obstruct after 2008 as well.
VA? A slow moving train wreck back to the nineties and inevitable when the casualties from the Bush/neocon wars were brought home and significant funding increases were rejected by the republicans.
About Cantor: Clearly the 12-14% who turned out to vote didn’t feel Cantor was representing their interests and those who didn’t vote must not have thought very much of him either. Could the base, the usual primary voters, really expect or want someone who would be a more consistent obstructionist? Or was it Cantor’s manner and ambition which alienated that base? Or does that base resemble all registered voters of both parties more than we might think?
Who isn’t offended by $120,000. spent on steak dinners? Who believes they’ll really be represented by millionaires or lawyers or old white guys? Who believes most senators or congressmen haven’t been corrupted by their own ambition? What lie wouldn’t they tell or what compromise wouldn’t they make to win the next election? Why didn’t the deck stacking in favor of the incumbent, the fund raising advantage, the gerrymandered district, the name recognition work for Cantor the way it works more than 9 out 10 times? Could anti-incumbency be in the air?
elliott trommald said:
The screed from nameless is no doubt nameless because the 19 points have been circulated for months, many of them for years. At least he has the good sense not to send the whole damn litany. They have become cliches which angry people in search of meaning try to puff up and enhance with their own cocktail of “vital vitriol.” So tiring, so trite. The list usually ends with, “if you want to save your country, circulate this to all your Friends” or some such puerile request.
I was surprised to find the abysmal lack of context in one who has taken the time to read what you wrote. What I found saddest was nameless’s parting shot: “it is people just such as you who are hastening the destruction of this country.” Perhaps there are no mirrors where nameless lives. I guess it is easier to understand what is happening around us when one understands baseball. Nameless seems to be lacking — perhaps Will or Giamatti could have helped him.