LOS ANGELES, June 12, 2014 — In a press conference worthy of emulation, outgoing House Majority Eric Cantor showed a level of class, dignity, humility and decency that all people could learn from.
Only 20 hours earlier, Cantor suffered a shocking defeat for reelection to his reliably conservative Seventh District in Virginia. Out of nowhere, Cantor was ousted in the Republican primary by a previously unknown economics professor named Dave Brat. Brat ran to the right of Cantor and turned a predicted 34-point loss into an 11-point victory.
The loss sent shock waves through the GOP establishment. Cantor was expected to eventually succeed Ohio Congressman John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Now Cantor will be out of Congress altogether in November.
In defeat, Cantor reminded us all that what matters is not how a person arrives, but how they leave. Anybody can be gracious in victory. The way people conducts themselves in defeat is how they are measured.
If “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore” is among the worst press quotes from a defeated candidate, Cantor’s conduct was politics at his best.
Cantor started out by expressing pride in his Jewish faith. He then paraphrased Rabbi Maharash, who teaches us that human beings are meant to jump over obstacles because obstacles are put in our way to help us climb higher. Cantor summoned that spirit by claiming that “each setback is an opportunity.”
Cantor also took time to compliment his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. While many people have a negative attitude of Congress, Cantor praised his colleagues as honest people who work hard and truly see public service as a noble calling. He also invited the media to spend more time getting to know his Virginia district and the good people he had the privilege of representing.
He refused to offer any political analysis as to why he lost, leaving that to the pundits. He announced that he would be stepping down as Majority Leader on July 31st, but that he would complete his term through January of 2015. He also offered full support for his friend Kevin McCarthy if the California Congressman attempted to move up in the ranks from Majority Whip to Majority Leader.
Cantor also refused to accept the false notion that Congress gets nothing done. House Republicans have passed plenty of bills on a range of issues. They have offered solutions. It is the Democrats in the Senate Leadership who have brought governance to a halt.
Cantor refused to make the Tea Party the whipping boy for his defeat. He reminded Americans that the original acronym TEA stands for “Taxed Enough Already.”
He vowed to continue fighting for conservative causes and pointed out that there was plenty more that united Republicans than divided them. He did not discuss his future plans but did say he in some capacity would continue working to roll back the hyper-liberalism of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda.
While he did not mention his primary opponent by name or offer an endorsement, there is time for that. This press conference was about Cantor, and he handled his defeat magnificently.
The Hebrew people have a word “mensch,” meaning “righteous individual.” Eric Cantor showed what it takes to be a mensch.
As the only Jewish Republican in Congress, Cantor was a source of pride for the Republican Jewish community. Those watching his press conference got to see a shining example that anybody in any community could admire.
He had a setback, but Cantor will be back in some capacity helping spread the conservative Republican message.
He deserves that opportunity.