As the commentariat rushes to find meta-meaning in the defeat of Eric Cantor last night—a difficult task, because his primary loss was clearly the result of several smaller factors that added up into one serious shellacking—there’s one that’s especially cheap and especially disgraceful. So disgraceful, in fact, that it’s only hinted at in either an easily denied or giggly sort of way. And that is the idea that Cantor lost in his district because he is a Jew.
Among the reasons adduced by the regrettable Norman Ornstein in the New York Daily News: “He was highly visible as the only Jewish Republican in the House, in a district with a strong evangelical presence.” The fact that Cantor has served the district as a Jew for 23 and a half years is not noted, nor is the fact that evangelicals are more likely to be philo- than anti-Semitic.
Reid Epstein of the Wall Street Journal proffered his own version in this cute set of sentences: “David Brat, the Virginia Republican who shocked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday, wrote in 2011 that Hitler’s rise ‘could all happen again, quite easily.’ Mr. Brat’s remarks, in a 2011 issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, came three years before he defeated the only Jewish Republican in Congress.” How Brat’s invocation of Hitler relates to Cantor’s Judaism is not clear, but Epstein decided to link them, and the link is suggestive, and not in a good way.
Eric Cantor is a proud Jew, and it is indeed unfortunate that the Republican party is left without a single Jewish elected voice in Washington. But his Judaism had nothing to do with his loss, and the only reason for suggesting otherwise is to tar David Brat and the voters of the seventh congressional district in Virginia with the taint of anti-Semitism. Shameful.