When the news came over my computer early this morning, I could scarcely fathom what it was I was reading. Was this some kind of Onionesque parody, I asked myself? The news was so baffling - and unexpected - that I had a difficult time processing it. A quick check of the other news sources that make their way into my inbox each-and-every morning confirmed that this was not a hoax: the extremist conservative, house majority leader, Eric Cantor, just wasn't right wing enough for the knuckleheads in the state of Virginia who tend to vote in Republican primaries; defeated by an underfunded, unknown Teapartier with the curious name, "David Brat". Aren't politics a gas?
To say that this was a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment would be about right. When the polls closed on Election Night 1948 everybody (with the exception of Harry Truman it seems) expected that New York governor Thomas Dewey would commence packing his bags for his new digs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Dreams can die a ghastly death. Mr. Dewey, like Mr. Cantor this morning, had some unpleasant realities to contend with come the dawn. Both had expected, not a campaign, but a coronation. Both became, instead, charter members of history's Losers Club. On Election Day when he should have been campaigning in his district and reaching out to his constituents, Eric Cantor was at a Starbucks in Washington DC, meeting with some of his richest donors. How's that for arrogance?
Yesterday wasn't just a calamity for Eric Cantor; the cracking bells of doom for the "party of Abraham Lincoln" could be clearly heard all through the evening and into the early morning hours. The damned things kept me up all night.
|Harry gives 'em Hell|
The Republicans are undergoing an ideological earthquake that has been decades in the making. When Dick Nixon rolled out the "Southern Strategy" in the long ago campaign of 1968, the GOP overtly sought the support of the racist Dixiecrats who had dominated the Democratic party for over a century. By 1980 the bigots were securely in the tent. It was then that candidate Ronald Reagan set out to woo the clinically insane. By 2001 the coalition was securely in place. The cabal of thieves, criminals and crazy people who have hijacked that disgusting party now seem hellbent on destroying it.
Not that this hasn't been oodles of fun to watch. It has. It's just that one has to wonder what their ultimate goal is. The Tea Party is taking a stand, not merely in Dixieland but in a lot of regions nationwide. In the weeks to come there are twenty-three Republican primaries scheduled. Watch as the incumbents move even further to the extreme right. What happened in Virginia yesterday might very well be a nasty harbinger of things to come. That would be too good to be true.
The weirdest thing about Congressman Cantor has always been his demeanor of contentment. He always has this strange look of almost cherubic calm when spouting the right-wing agenda. At least Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, to their credit, have the decency to look somewhat ill-at-ease when defending the indefensible. Not so with Eric Cantor! He's perfectly at peace with himself: Buddy Holly on quaaludes. Weird!
|Sorry, I couldn't resist|
I initially intended to call this piece "The Political Obituary of Eric Cantor" - until I remembered Howard K Smith.
In 1962, after Dick Nixon was defeated by Pat Brown in his quest for the California Governor's mansion, Smith concocted a piece for ABC News called "The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon". Nixon had originally been favored to win. A former vice-President who came so close to defeating Jack Kennedy for the presidency two years earlier, he seemed a shoe-in. It didn't quite work out that way. On the night of his defeat, Nixon had a public meltdown and told the assembled press, "Just think how much you're going to be missing: You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." Howard took him at his work. Tricky Dick had effectively committed political suicide. Who could blame Smith for pounding out the Trickster's epitaph?
Six years and two months later, Nixon was living in the White House. Ouch!
Although Smith went on to distinguish himself during an illustrious career that lasted until his retirement seventeen years later, the "Political Obituary" broadcast was an albatross that hung around his neck for the rest of his life. Bearing that in mind, I'm not going to make the mistake of writing off Eric Cantor as a goner - much as I'd love to, mind you.
Come to think about it we really shouldn't be all that surprised by the outcome of the Cantor/Brat contest. The Frankenstein monster in the guise of the Tea Party was created by the Republicans to do their ideological bidding. Unfortunately the monster has turned on them. What no one is saying is that this is now a separate party. David Brat may technically be a Republican, but if they try to nominate a "moderate" in 2016 (Mitt Romney was too much of a lefty for these clowns) there is every reason to expect a third-party uprising, dooming the GOP on Election Day of that year - and every four years from here on.
The Republicans' extremism has rendered them a self-inflicted, mortal wound that will eventually destroy that party. Last night was but a prelude of still nastier things to come. The Clown Car is on fire. It really is amusing watching that elephant have a nervous breakdown, isn't it?
I'm loving every minute of this. Seriously.
|Howard K. Smith|
Events Leading Up to My Death:
by Howard K. Smith
The journalistic memoirs of a giant from the golden age of television news.