WASHINGTON, June 13, 2014 — In response to Eric Cantor’s primary defeat in Virginia, the Daily Kos asks the question on the worst liberal minds: “Did House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lose the Virginia Republican Primary (VA-07) to Tea Party candidate David Brat because of an anti-Semitic Evangelical Christian backlash against the only Jewish Republican in Congress?”
While most pundits have focused on anti-immigration sentiment on the right as the poison that killed Cantor — “anti-immigration” serving as code these days for “anti-Hispanic racism” — some people look to David Brat’s brand of Christianity for the murder weapon.
Daily Kos quotes the New York magazine’s Kevin Roose to make the point: “But in his writings, Brat seems eager to fuse Christianity and the generally secular field of academic economics. A review of several of Brat’s academic papers reveals that he sees free-market economics as being intricately linked to ethics and faith. He’s not just a professor who happens to believe in God; he wants to put God at the center of his work.”
It seems, from this perspective, that the voters of Cantor’s district must have been looking for a reason to get rid of the Jew, and they found it in an economist who fuses Christian theology with Adam Smith.
The New York Times picks up the question. “Now Mr. Cantor’s stunning primary loss on Tuesday — to a little-known economics professor, David Brat, who called his election “a miracle from God” — has raised questions about whether anti-Semitism was at work. ‘Did Eric Cantor lose because he’s Jewish?’ asked TheWeek.com, a newsmagazine.”
The Times answer is “no … but.”
“But analysts do say that Mr. Brat — who has a divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and often invokes God in his speeches — appeals to Christian conservatives in a way that Mr. Cantor simply cannot.” The Times quotes David Wasserman, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, who sees Cantor as “culturally dissimilar from his own voters.”
So, there was no overt anti-Semitism at play, but both the New York magazine and the New York Times find a cause for Cantor’s demise in the religion of David Brat.
The Wall Street Journal’s Reid Epstein manages to one-up the vague implication of anti-Semitism; he waves Adolf Hitler over it all, without accusing anyone of anything. Writing in his Washington Wire blog, Epstein observes, “David Brat, the Virginia Republican who shocked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) Tuesday, wrote in 2011 that Hitler’s rise ‘could all happen again, quite easily.’
“Mr. Brat’s remarks, in a 2011 issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, came three years before he defeated the only Jewish Republican in Congress.”
Epstein never accuses Brat of being a fan of Hitler, nor even of casual anti-Semitism, but most internet readers are not careful readers, and the juxtaposition of Hitler with “he defeated the only Jewish Republican in Congress” is sure to set some fiery bees under some liberal bonnets.
Cantor is the only Republican Jew in Congress, a fact that’s been stressed over and over again in the twitterverse. This isn’t due to any GOP dislike of Jews, but because Jews are about as reliably liberal as any block of the electorate can be. As much as most Jews in the media hoped to see the last of Cantor and would have worked for his ouster harder than anyone in the Tea Party, some now see in this, if not anti-Semitism, at least an exclusionary cultural Christianity.
The Jewish Daily Forward’s J.J. Goldberg asks, “Did Eric Cantor lose because of his Judaism? Everybody’s been tiptoeing around the question for the last two days, so let’s just come out and say it: Of course he did.” Goldberg goes on, “the prairie fire that’s turned so much of middle America red is as much about Christianity as anything else. And if it’s about Christianity, then it’s also about not-Jewish.”
We should note that no one, from the New York Times to J.J. Goldberg, is claiming that the GOP voters of Cantor’s district are anti-Semitic. Far from it. Goldberg specifically says that, “I’d bet that 90% of the 36,000 zealots who turned out to vote for David Brat on Tuesday (vs. 29,000 for Cantor) don’t have an anti-Semitic bone in their body. It’s just that they love Jesus.”
The problem isn’t Cantor’s Judaism, but Brat’s Christianity. The problem isn’t that Americans are anti-Semitic, but that they’re Christian. In absolving conservatives of anti-Semitism, the left is making sure we hear the question.
This sort of race-baiting at a remove is noxious. If everyone is so certain that the answer is no, what’s the point of bringing up the question?