(updated with a reply to Charlie Pierce)
I've been thinking that I haven't seen Eric Cantor demagoguing the president or the Democratic Party very much lately -- in contrast to Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham, who won their primaries handily this year. Even John Boehner has been better at this than Cantor in the past few months -- and, of course, he got to announce the new Benghazi star chamber not long ago, which was a huge portion of red meat to toss to the rubes.
That was just a gut sense about Cantor on my part, but Hugh Hewitt tells me I'm right:
Some journo ought to dig up how many national radio talk show appearances @EricCantor did in last 18 moNths No profile outside of $ elites— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) June 11, 2014
Do you see what Hewitt is saying? He's saying that if you're a Republican officeholder, the measure of your worth is not how much good you do for your country, or for your state or district -- it's how much noise you make in the right-wing media. That's the service you're supposed to provide in return for your congressional pay.
Dave Brat, the guy who won yesterday, may have had a lower profile than Cantor, but as Salon's Jim Newell pointed out, prominent members of the right-wing demagogue community pulled out all the stops for Brat:
... it was hard not to notice this morning that Drudge, in the prime upper-left real estate of his site, had listed a full 14 links regarding immigration and a supposed impending push for "amnesty" among the House Republican leadership....Glenn Beck also backed Brat.
What gives on this sleepy Tuesday? ...
Hmmm ... maybe something about Tuesday ... primary season ... it's a Tuesday during primary season ... Ohhhhhhhh, we get it: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary is today!
... The [Cantor-Brat] race hasn't gotten that much national media coverage, but it’s sure grabbed the attention of the prominent right-wingers who devote their entire lives to stopping comprehensive immigration reform. There's Drudge, of course. And Ann Coulter. And radio/TV personality Laura Ingraham, who recently suggested that the United States should have traded Eric Cantor to the Taliban for Bowe Bergdahl. And the writings and tweets of Mickey Kaus, now of the Daily Caller, have been indistinguishable from those of a Brat staffer in recent months.
Ingraham seems to have been the real kingmaker here -- yes, the woman who, when she heard that child immigrants held by Homeland Security in Arizona were complaining about food that had made them sick, mocked them by playing a Taco Bell slogan. Ingraham gave Brat a tremendous amount of support, and even hosted a rally for him. (Mediaite notes that the banner photo on Brat's Facebook page depicts Brat and his family with Ingraham.)
This is what Republican voters want. They want their rage pleasure centers regularly stroked. Right-wing radio and TV are their favorite things in the world (with the possible exception of guns). Give them rage on radio and TV and you win. Lindsey Graham understands this. Cantor clearly didn't. Brat did -- or at least his media-demagogue backers did.
The New York Times reports that the Cantor campaign "spent about $168,637 at steakhouses compared with the $200,000 his challenger, David Brat, ... spent on his entire campaign." No, no, no, Eric -- the red meat is for the rubes, not you.
And in this I have to express a rare disagreement with Charlie Pierce:
It wasn't just the fact that Cantor flirted with immigration reform. Brat also hit him for voting to raise the debt ceiling -- Brat has promised to vote against raising the debt ceiling for the first five years he's in Congress -- and for voting for the Ryan-Murray budget plan, and for voting to end the government shutdown. In other words, Dave Brat was elected because he ran against the very few things that Eric Cantor did that remotely helped the government simply to function.... If you lived in the Seventh Congressional District of the Commonwealth of Virginia, those are the policy choices your fellow citizens would have endorsed last night.Yeah, but McConnell, Graham, and Boehner have allowed the government to function, if barely. They just fooled the rubes into thinking that they don't let that distract them from their real job, which is making as many Americans as possible hate Obama, the rest of the Democratic Party, and liberalism.
UPDATE: Charlie Pierce responds:
Contra Steve M, the primary bona fides for Republican members of the House of Representatives is how thoroughly you can refuse to do the job of governing, especially in the area of immigration, but also as regards the critical elements of the national economy. That is going to be the ground on which the seismic banana race is going to be run. The winners will be the ones who can most convincingly demonstrate that they have no intention of doing their jobs as long as the Kenyan Usurper resides in the White House.Perhaps I suggested above that I disagree with that, but I don't really. I absolutely believe that GOP voters expect their elected officials to obstruct the president and congressional Democrats as much as humanly possible. I was merely taking issue with the notion that Republican officeholders have to do it 100% of the time in order to survive. They can limit themselves to ... well, 99% of the time -- but only if they perform the essential constituent service of declaring that Obama, other Democrats, and liberalism are destroying civilization as we know it every time they can possibly get within range of a microphone or camera. If they do that enough (as Graham, Boehner, and McConnell do, and as Cantor recently failed to do), they'll be permitted a few brief moments of actual responsible governing. But they'd better not make a habit of that.