Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

Political Power Play: Eric Cantor Style

Posted on: June 23, 2011

I’m picking sides on this one.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) picked up his marbles today and went home.  For all the world, it seemed like the ultimate childish play.  Perhaps so.  But the stakes are much higher, and there’s a stench of intra-party intrigue.  I’ll tell you the punchline right now: this maneuver was all about improving Cantor’s already-strong profile with the ultra-conservative right wing of the Republican Party, and weakening the power of Republican House Speaker John Boehner.  The political result could be a Grand Old Party lying in pieces on the Capitol floor.  Worse still, the interests of Americans will not be served at all.  Only Cantor’s.

Here’s what happened: Vice President Joe Biden — on direct orders from a ‘tax-and-spend’ Democratic President, Barack Obama — has been leading negotiations with top political leaders from both sides.  The purpose is to find ways to cut spending.

Democrats want to eliminate the tax breaks being given to special interests, heavy industry, and the wealthiest individuals who least need the favors.  Republicans are saying that this amounts to a tax increase; a tactic they will not brook on its face.  Both mantras sound lovely to the party faithful of both sides until you listen more closely.  These favors are draining the American tax base and have no benefit for the working- and middle-classes who make up better than 75% of America’s citizens.

Here again is a case where unfiltered numbers are hard to find.  In March, the Center for American Progress, a progressive (“radical-left”) non-profit, developed what I believe to be an unfiltered graph.  All the big numbers start with “billion” except for the last.If you jumped right away to the bottom (and who could blame you), that big circled number is $1.1Trillion.  That’s already HALF of what the Biden commission is trying to achieve.

Mr. Cantor’s reasons for ditching today’s talks?  1) “[T]he Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases.”  I think we’ve pretty well identified this argument as disingenuous at least, and as an outright lie at most.  2) President Obama isn’t involved enough.  Really?  You want the president to toss the enormity of his responsibilities to hold your hand?  His vice president isn’t involved enough for you?  Does the president’s lack of involvement mean that you (Cantor) can justify removing yourself from any involvement?

Which brings us to the spectre of political intrigue.  The narration of today’s events will now turn from the merely gut-churning to the downright gory.

One has to ask why Mr. Cantor would be so willing to stage such political theater.  There are two answers.  First, it increases his perceived value to the deep-pocketed Tea Party, and second, it steals power from the slightly-less-extreme Republican House Speaker, John Boehner.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)

How?  If Cantor won’t touch this less-than-Tea Party-standard deal, Boehner would be forced into a position of cutting it himself.  This means that Boehner would have to make the tough decisions, even the concessions, necessary to get the job done.  Having done so, his name would be sullied, not Cantor’s.  Boehner comes out weakened to the point of – perhaps – losing his leadership.  Cantor comes out strong.  He held high the extreme-right brand.

Above all else.

Representative Eric Cantor represents Eric Cantor here.  He takes an aggressive role in the destruction of his own Republican Party thereby weakening our form of government.  He plays a game where the only winner is Eric Cantor.

The loser is the American people.

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