The GOP has long touted its commitment to “Judeo-Christian values,” a meaningless term meant to convey that the “Christian nation” is a bit more accommodating than one might suspect from its name. But now, with the stunning upset of Majority Leader Eric Cantor by tea party challenger David Brat yesterday, there are no longer any Jewish Republicans in either the House or the Senate.
Republican Jewish Coalition president Matt Brooks was disappointed: “I was certainly hoping that Eric was going to be our first Jewish speaker.”
Political analyst David Wasserman, the New York Times reports, “said another, more local factor has to be acknowledged,” that Cantor “was culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented, and more conservative.”
“Part of this plays into his religion,” Wasserman told the Times. “You can’t ignore the elephant in the room.”
There are a few ways to interpret his statement: one is that this more rural, gun-toting district is more anti-Semitic than the one Cantor represented before it was redrawn. Another is that as the Republican Party has veered ever rightward, the cultural markers of a “true” conservative do not include someone who is Jewish.
Another possible reason for Cantor’s demise in a more gun-oriented district: he supportedbackground checks in 2013, a position he retreated from in the face of political opposition. But after Cantor expressed his fleeting support for background checks, the National Association for Gun Rights ran an ad claiming that Cantor “wants to herd even more gun owners into a federal database registration system.” Cantor, the ad went on, “doesn’t sound like a Virginian or a Republican anymore. Eric Cantor sounds like someone else”—another bogeyman, Barack Obama.
That ad was pretty clear: he’s not one of us. But was that because he was Jewish, or because he briefly diverged from firearms orthodoxy?
In any case, it can now be said that in terms of representation in Washington, the Republican Party is a Christian party.
Politico suggests this might damage the GOP brand on Israel and with the Jewish community:
Now, with Cantor’s defeat, there’s no longer a point man to help organize trips to Israel for junior GOP lawmakers, as Cantor routinely did. Jewish nonprofits and advocacy groups have no other natural person in leadership to look to for a sympathetic ear. No other Republican lawmaker can claim to have precisely the same relationship with gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a primary benefactor of both the Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Perhaps, though, it will now become clear that without any Jewish allies in Congress, Adelson doesn’t really represent that many Jewish voters, and that presidential aspirants who pander to him aren’t seriously thinking they’ll sway Jewish votes. They’re just seeing his deep pockets.