Five Ethics Observations On House Majority Leader Eric Canter’s Upset Primary Loss

CantorYesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost the GOP primary in Virginia’s 7th District to virtually unknown economics professor Dave Brat, conservative hard-liner who was backed by the Tea Party wing of the Virginia Republican Party, and the some influential voices on local conservative talk radio. You can get political analysis, though precious little of it objective, almost anywhere you look. Here are some ethics observations:

1. The turnout for the primary was less than 15%. Here is what that means: citizens who give a damn get their way. That is as it should be. An eligible voter who can watch the mess in our national government and sit out any opportunity to make his or her voice heard and vote count is a lazy and irresponsible citizen. This means that in the Virgina 7th District, more than 8 out of 10 voters are lazy and irresponsible. To them I say: I don’t care what you think. You have shirked the sacred responsibility of self-government. Go find a king somewhere. You don’t understand or appreciate democracy, and you don’t deserve one.

2. Canter outspent Brat 5-1, and lost in a landslide. This came the same month that Democrats had multiple letters printed in the Washington Post supporting the offensive Constitutional amendment being floated in the Senate that would limit political contributions toward campaign advertising by independent groups, arguing, as does Harry Reid, that the ability of donors to freely advocate candidates and positions “threatens democracy.” This, of course, is a cloaked argument for protecting incumbents like Cantor (and Reid), as well as for censoring free speech.  Absent information delivered directly to their brains, lazy and ignorant voters just vote for incumbents, the party they are registered with, or not at all, irrespective of issues.  Ads can give them something to think about, if they can think, but all the spending in the world can’t sway a responsible, informed voter, or a passionate one. Legitimate facts and fair arguments can, and the more the better.

3. Democrats are whooping it up over Cantor’s loss. Vindictive and irresponsible. Cantor was a high-placed Republican who was capable of negotiation and compromise. He also is smart, a feature notably lacking in a large proportion of both the House and the Senate. Brat, who is likely to win, will increase polarization and decrease the already slim chances of the government actually governing. Rejoicing Democrats and progressives are apparently unable to comprehend that in politics, you need to work with your adversaries, meaning that you need adversaries that you can work with.  Similarly, Cantor’s flexibility was derided as weakness by the Tea Party types and the likes of talk-radio apoplectic Mark Levin. Also irresponsible. Willingness to compromise is not weakness.

4. Cantor’s loss is being attributed largely to his moderate (for a Republican) stance on illegal immigration, He was willing to work on a path to citizenship for the current illegals, which is the only practical solution to part of the illegal immigrant problem (securing the border is the other part.) Foolishly, so foolishly, the hard right still calls this amnesty, just as they did when President Bush and John McCain tried to address the problem—13 million illegals is a problem-–eight years  ago. Call it what you will: both parties were complicit in causing this mess, and neither should be allowed to now cite abstract principles to block attempts to fix it. Now the GOP is probably back to the old “no amnesty” madness. Ethical governing means fixing problems the best you can with the least damage, and ideology be damned. That means legalizing the current shadow population (Republicans) and making it harder for more to sneak in (Democrats.) The disgraceful politicizing of this issue is an indictment of the intelligence, integrity and competence of the entire government.

5. And yet, if Cantor lost votes because of his support of a version of “Dream Act” legislation, those were votes he deserved to lose. It is a gut punch to the rule of law to create an incentive for people to break laws, which is what the Dream Acts all do. The flood of foreign, unaccompanied children now creating a nightmare for the Obama administration unfortunately illustrates the point, and for Cantor, the timing was unlucky. So U.S. policy is now that as long as you are a minor, you can break immigration laws with impunity, and get a college education too! Sweet! Also stupid, and corrupt. That’s not compassion and it’s not responsible governing. It is no more and no less than buying Hispanic votes at the cost of national sovereignty and security.

21 thoughts on “Five Ethics Observations On House Majority Leader Eric Canter’s Upset Primary Loss

  1. 1. Bullseye. Nothing more need be said.

    2. Isn’t this one of the six amendments Stevens floated?

    3. It’s all about being vindictive now, and it has been since 2001. Screw working together, it’s going to be our turn again soon, and I hope the next Republican president and a Republican Congress make life miserable for the liberal community in this nation.

    4. It’s become a political chess piece. Do you expect either side not to play it?

    5. Same as 4, pure politics, and it backfired here.

    • 2. Yes, it is. All of his amendments were 1) useless 2) dangerous and 3) delusional.
      3. You are speaking in the voice of The Vindictive, right? I hope?
      4. I expect elected officials to be patriots and responsible leaders, and to do what’s in the best interest of the nation, popular or not. Ah…here come the men in the white coats now!

      • (sigh) It says something when the SCOTUS’ last moderate justice has been declared dangerous and delusional. Yes, I am half-speaking in the voice of the vindictive, I am very liberal-weary after the last 6 years and I bet you can’t guess what my first Executive Order would be in 2017. They’re coming to take me away…

  2. Jack
    Nice piece. I think however that we should give Mr. Brat the benefit of the doubt and not tie him tightly to the Tea Party movement. Furthermore, even if he is tightly tied to that movement, the primary ideology of the Tea party is to limit or reduce the burgeoning debt that is being heaped upon future generations and limiting our current capacity to privately invest. Suggesting that he will increase the polarization may be premature. And, even if he is, isn’t an opposing force needed when the opposing side is equally of more polarizing.

    What I have witnessed for the last 6 years is progressive bullies getting everything they want by treating people as wards of the state and making everyone that disagrees with their position out as an insensitive misogynistic racist. Standing up for a belief is not polarizing; slandering people is polarizing.

    I would like to make one point about compromise. It takes two to reach a deal. Mr. Cantor has shown intelligence and flexibility on myriad issues. But, if the opposing side controls the Executive branch and the Senate and that side continues to move the goal posts sometimes you must walk away from the negotiations or you will come away with less than nothing. You sometimes have to meet a group of hardliners with a hardliner or you will be fleeced every time. We cannot have our representatives allow themselves to be contortionists to accommodate every demand made without getting anything substantial in the process.

    The progressives are gleeful that Cantor lost not because he was beaten by a Democrat but because it gives them ammunition to claim that all Republicans are so far to the right that they have no compassion for anyone but themselves. This is not what the Tea Party thinks. Just as all Democrats and progressives do not think like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson Harry Reid or Charles Schumer, most of those that are sympathetic to the Tea Party are not a bunch of narcissistic, white, upper income racists or lower income rubes as we are often portrayed.

    I think you responded yesterday to a comment in which you said the government has the right to impose laws to protect the individual and to legislate for the benefit of all concerned. I agree. However what voice do our children have when we elect legislators that impose higher costs on them by making sure that those who can vote now get the benefits of the potential future incomes of the people. A legislator that votes to live within our means is protecting all of us from the calamity of crushing debt; not just those that vote.

    As an economist, Mr. Brat will tell you we are living on borrowed time. A few point jump in interest rates will mean that we have no money for any discretionary spending unless government demands more of our incomes from the people. Every new tax dollar the government receives and spends is one less dollar available to increase individual wealth and satisfaction. Transferring more of my income to another does not increase total utility or satisfaction because government adds no value to the transaction. Government creates a frictional loss by creating an inefficiency.

  3. Follow up on point 4
    We can eliminate the political fight over this population demographic by providing them permanent legal status but no path to citizenship. Very simple. There is no inherent constitutional right to citizenship except by birth. Becoming a naturalized citizen is an earned benefit not a right. Ethically we should not require more from one group than we do from another. Would it be racist to require a person from Kenya to jump though more hoops to become a US citizen than a Salvadoran? How about someone from France?

    The problem for the undocumented is that they are preyed upon by the unscrupulous when the get here because they cannot request protection without risking deportation.

    The problem for the current citizens is that an influx of foreign (non-citizens) tax the existing infrastructure and resource base.

    By providing for permanent legal status, without the right to vote – unless they follow the existing path to citizenship – we can allow the undocumented to emerge from the shadows and allow them to contribute to the costs of maintaining the infrastructure without fear from the INS. It would also eliminate the idea that we are breaking up families.

    It is the path to citizenship that is creating the legislative bottleneck. Creating a new path for people that are here in violation of current law is rewarding the behavior and is inconsistent with the concept of equal protection. Why should a potential immigrant play by the rules if special (easier) rules apply to people that sneak in or stay beyond the limits of their visas. Why are we only focusing on those the 13 million Hispanics? Would these new rules apply to Yemeni’s, Pakistani’s, Chinese, etc.?
    The argument for legalizing people that willfully violate the law is no different than arguing that because people will smoke marijuana we may as well legalize it. Tex refuted the “they do it anyway” argument yesterday.

    Anyone that wishes to become a citizen can simply apply under the current rules and conditions.

  4. I really don’t see what’s wrong with the “no amnesty” stance. Most of the immigrants coming into this country are doing it because of economic reasons, not because they have essential skills to offer. The flood of immigrants into this country is a major cause for the increasing amount of U.S. national debt.

    • Nothing’s wrong with it, except that when you have been party to allowing a problem to fester until it gets this bad, it is no longer feasible, practical, and as a result of this, no longer right. What you say is true, but the government, in a despicable conspiracy between big business, which wanted unconscionable cheap labor, and Democrats, who wanted to pander to a big demographic of potential voters, betrayed the country by allowing illegals in to the point that there were too many to throw out. You can’t deport 13 million people without looking like Nazis; you can’t have a permanent, hiding underclass being exploited by the unscrupulous, so you give them a path to becoming legitimate, and never let it happen again. There is no other responsible choice. Saying NOW that we shouldn’t allow lawbreakers to profit is idiotic when the complaint came from the same people who intentionally looked the other way while desperate people broke laws they saw as being, in essence, waived.

      • Jack
        You make some good points. I can agree that the US Chamber of Commerce wanted a supply of low wage workers to help dampen wage inflation, but I cannot understand how the mechanics of such a policy would work except in California’s agricultural sector and perhaps to a lesser degree in the construction sectors that use casual day labor. There are indeed sweatshops that exist in major urban centers that exploit the undocumented person’s fear of the INS; and it is these firms that need to be shut down and fined, but I would not classify them as “big business”. I doubt seriously if those that run those operations are members of either the national or local COC.

        All employers are required to collect an I9 form which requires a government issued ID, and a birth certificate or passport. Most large scale businesses that are subject to even more onerous EEO reporting requirements do not employ undocumented workers because of the I9 requirement as well as having to outline the details of their EEO policy. I could be wrong, but I don’t see many undocumented workers in high tech manufacturing or R&D facilities. I also don’t think that Marriott, Hilton and other major brands would risk the fines and negative brand exposure to hire cheap custodians, maids and other low skill service personnel to save a bit on wages. There are always exceptions but in my experience most of the undocumented work in firms operated by documented immigrants of similar persuasion. It is their own people that exploit them using the promise of housing, albeit crowded, and protection in exchange for long hours and low wages.

        If we just grant them permanent status so that others cannot exploit their fear of the police and the INS, and only permit them to earn citizenship status (right to vote) if they meet all the conditions of our existing law, I suspect that the demographic group in question would not be so valuable to either party or to those that wish to exploit them economically.

        The other option is to have our immigration law reflect the immigration law of the country from whence they came. Just try to obtain a work permit in Mexico let alone citizenship.

    • Unfortunately, that’s not the issue. That’s an abstract issue that no longer applies. The actual ethics issue is: is it responsible to allow untenable situation to get worse because you don’t have the guts to do take the best of the bad options remaining thanks to your own ineptitude?

      • Jack
        If we set aside the abstract issue of rewarding an illegal act with citizenship then all we are left with is are the demands that need to be resolved on both sides of issue.

        If we want to get them out of the shadows we can confer legitimacy that will obviate the potential for their exploitation by unscrupulous business people or criminals and negate any fear of their deportation without conferring citizenship.

        Given that they are already here and are not eligible to receive public assistance, letting them stay without making them eligible for assistance would not impact the infrastructure any more than it already has. The only thing that they would be eligible for would be Social Security if they worked and paid into the system like all other workers.

        As I understand the law, foreign nationals are afforded the same constitutional protections as voting eligible citizens, except the right to participate in our political processes, so they would not be treated as second class citizens any more than I would be in their country of origin. We have to assume that they would be treated far better here than there otherwise they would not have come her in the first place.

        When a Korean automaker wants to build a factory in the US to be nearer its market we have no problem with that. We don’t grant citizenship to Volvo, Hyundai, Toyota or any other foreign concern. Each will pay taxes to the US and state governments. So if a person comes here to sell his or her labor to be closer to his or her market is not that a general equivalent of that same concept? So exactly why is a pathway to citizenship so vital in this discussion.

        My suggestion would be to have a 30 day open enrollment period in which the undocumented can appear in person before the INS to demonstrate they were in the country prior to the announced registration program. Each would register with INS to get a picture ID and be fingerprinted. No new persons will be eligible for non-citizen permanent foreign national status after the close of the open enrollment period – ever. Persons granted permanent foreign national status would be prohibited from seeking citizenship except after a defined time frame and by meeting all the existing requirements. However, applicants granted foreign national permanent status would have subordinate status to those that are following existing immigration law and were not granted permanent foreign national status under this reform. That is the price they pay for having the privilege of living and working in the US while the others had to wait. This would be more fair than extracting a monetary fine because with fines only the well off would ever have this opportunity.

        Any one found in the US without a permanent foreign national status card or valid visa would be subject to immediate return to the country of origin; just like everywhere else in the world. Anyone, convicted of a felony, with or without a permanent foreign national card would also be subject to immediate return to the country of origin after serving the sentence imposed; just like everywhere else in the world. That’s what we do with foreign embassy personnel that violate our criminal laws except that they are rarely tried and sentenced.

        Seems fair and humanitarian to me.

        If we choose to let undocumented immigrants obtain citizenship before others that follow the law, we may as well permit American children beyond the age of reason to vote as well. If we can reform (change) the rules for non-citizens to give them participation access in our political affairs we should be able give the same participatory access to all Americans regardless of age. I am being facetious, of course.

        The original immigration rules were not arbitrarily and capriciously constructed. They were designed to promote an orderly influx of people and talents. The idea that simply because both parties failed to exercise due control over immigration does not mean that we must develop an entirely new approach to accommodate those that benefitted from our prior and current leader’s abdication of their responsibilities. Nonetheless, we must correct those failures without any one group gaining unjust enrichment from the failure to execute our immigration laws. Granting citizenship is not a requirement to alleviate the social problems associated with allowing the undocumented to live and work in the US.

        • Methinks you should write your congresspeople, Chris. Offhand your suggestion sounds like an eminently workable solution, when combined with increased border security. Ideas like this need to be more widely publicized, if only to show the average human what reasonable thinking and serious problem-solving looks like.

      • Shouldn’t the primary consideration of the overlords in DC be what’s best for the people who put them in office? I don’t think endless cycles of unprotected borders, then mass amnesties would qualify.

  5. I actually don’t know of a single liberal gloating over this — the talk radio I heard today all acknowledged that this could make things worse for Dem efforts in Congress.

  6. An eligible voter who can watch the mess in our national government and sit out any opportunity to make his or her voice heard and vote count is a lazy and irresponsible citizen.

    No, there are several other alternatives. For instance, it could be someone acting according to the anarchist slogan, “don’t vote, it only validates the farce”, meaning that insiders can use it as part of the Morton’s Fork “if you voted, you endorsed the outcome” (the other fork is, “if you didn’t vote, you have no standing to object to the outcome” – which is what your position is close to). Or it could be rational laziness, an appreciation that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, a politician always gets in. Or it could be a principled abstention in support of building a boycott until constructive options were on the agenda (this is one thing the Irish tried in the nineteenth century until they came up with a better approach, join and sabotage).

    Your formulation contains hidden assumptions about the effectiveness and legitimacy of voting, which do not necessarily obtain.

    … in the Virgina 7th District, more than 8 out of 10 voters are lazy and irresponsible. To them I say: … You have shirked the sacred responsibility of self-government. Go find a king somewhere. You don’t understand or appreciate democracy, and you don’t deserve one.

    And, as Mencken pointed out, those who do vote do deserve democracy, and they get it good and hard. Which also opens up the possibility that at least some of those who don’t vote do indeed appreciate all that and are indeed rational and/or principled.

    Willingness to compromise is not weakness.

    That very much depends on whether what is at stake is “of the essence” (a technical term), and on some other things as well. Even if it is not weak it may well be foolish – in certain circumstances.

    Ethical governing means fixing problems the best you can with the least damage, and ideology be damned.

    That reminds me of something Disraeli is reported to have told a recalcitrant M.P.: “damn your principles, stick up for your party”.

    When you don’t know where things will lead, that isn’t even sound in consequentialist terms and the best you can hope for then is that principles you have other reasons to think sound will in due time lead you to better options; if you damn your ideology for convenience’s sake rather than because it is faulty, you will not actually be “fixing problems the best you can with the least damage” after all. That’s where the saying “honesty is the best policy” came from.

  7. My comment on point 3.

    There is a perception that when Republicans compromise, they do not benefit; they only avoid losing less than what they could have, and Democrats merely gain less than what they could have gained. There is a related perception that the Democratic leadership negotiates in bad faith.

    Whether this perception is true is another topic. But moderates have failed to disprove this perception.

  8. Can we get an expanded followup post on the ethics of point 2? It’s something I’m on the fence about and I think it would be productive to see the issues parsed by the community here.

  9. I’d just say that Cantor’s loss was not based on his ability to compromise, but on just what he was prepared to compromise on. The scourge of the border invaders has already reached to Virginia and beyond. It’s not a border state issue anymore. And the consequences have reached a critical point. Brat was merely saying what a great many others have. Until the border is secured and the illegal entrants have been identified and processed, there can be no consideration for “guest worker” permits. America’s security and viability are compromised enough. This is what must be set aright.

    • Then again, only 11% of Virginian apparently give a damn, at least in his district. As in the case of Mitt Romney, the direct reason Cantor lost is that not enough Republicans care enough about who runs their government to bother to vote.

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