Tea Party Defeats Last Jewish Republican in Congress

Virginia 7th District
28,898 44.45% Rep. Eric I. Cantor
36,110 55.55% Prof. David A. Brat
65,008 Total


Cantor calls Anti-Semitism the “darker side” of the Republican caucus, April 2012.


Cantor calls Jewish tendency to vote Republican the bane of his existence and reveals the Republican version of tikkun olam (CBS 60 Minutes, January 2001).

When Eric Cantor (VA) was elected to Congress in 2000, he and Benjamin Gilman (NY) were the only two Jewish Congressmen caucusing as Republicans in the House of Representatives. Gilman retired in 2003 after his district was dispersed, leaving Cantor as the only Jewish Republican in the House.

At the time, two Jewish Republicans served in the Senate: Norm Coleman (MN) and Arlen Specter (PA). However, Coleman was unseated in a close election by Jewish comedian Al Franken (MN) in 2008, and Specter switched parties in 2009 and then was defeated in the 2010 Democratic primary by Admiral Joe Sestak.

Cantor has risen to great prominence. He was elected House Majority Leader in 2011, and was widely seen as the likely successor to John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

According to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index, Cantor’s district is very safe, with a 10% Republican advantage compared to national averages:

2012 Election Results

  • President: Romney (R) 57%, Obama (D) 42%
  • Senator: Allen (R) 53%, Kaine (D) 47%
  • Represenative: Cantor (R) 58%, Powel (D) 41%

Accordingly, as the House’s second-ranked Republican, Cantor would have had no problem winning the general election yet again this year. His only danger was being defeated in the Republican primary. Even that seemed extremely unlikely: Cantor is ranked in the most conservative fifth of Congress by the DW-Nominate Scores based on his voting record, so he seemed like a good fit for his district.

Cantor spent $5,700,000 in the primary against his opponent David Brat, a Tea Party activist and obscure economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, with a mere $231,000 at his campaign’s disposal. In the final public polls before the election, Cantor led by 13%. In fact, Cantor’s internal polling projected he would win in a 34% landslide. Accordingly, he spent election day raising money for other Republicans rather than campaigning for himself.

Nevertheless, with the light turnout for the primary, Cantor was perhaps not sufficiently extreme: He was upset by Brat, 55.55% to 45.45%.

More after the jump.
The incumbent Cantor only kept control of four counties in the district: Three in the North are in the larger Washington, D.C. metropolitan area: Culpeper Country (51%), Orange County (61%) and Spotsylvania (54%), and the other is the state capital of Richmond (54%).

Brat succeeded with a grassroots campaign focused narrowly on the issue of immigration, characterizing Cantor as a supporter of an Obama plan to give amnesty to illegal immigrants. Wall Street Journal blogger Reid J. Epstein wrote that “Brat appeared more interested in campaigning to make a point than in winning”:

The Washington Post reported last month that he no-showed meetings with key conservative activists in the capital. His excuse: He had final exams to grade.

Mr. Brat will face Democrat Jack Trammell, who is a professor and the director of disability support services at Randolph-Macon College, the same school where Mr. Brat teaches.

Mr. Cantor can’t run as a third-party candidate. Virginia law forbids candidates who lose primary elections from appearing on the general election ballot. It is not immediately clear if he will mount a write-in campaign , as did Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) after losing a 2010 GOP Senate primary.

There are clues to Mr. Brat’s ideology in his academic CV. His current book project is titled “Ethics as Leading Economic Indicator? What went Wrong? Notes on the Judeo-Christian Tradition and Human Reason.”

His other published works include the titles “God and Advanced Mammon – Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?” and “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.”

In the wake of Cantor’s defeat, he has resigned as House Majority Leader, leaving great uncertainty about who will be the next Speaker of the House.

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, Matt Brooks, said this was “one of those incredible, evil twists of fate that just changed the potential course of history. There are other leaders who will emerge, but Eric was unique and it will take time and there’s nobody quite like Eric in the House to immediately fill those shoes. I was certainly hoping that Eric was going to be our first Jewish speaker.

Eric’s efforts have been invaluable in passing important legislation on matters of concern to his constituents and the nation. He rose quickly to a top position in the House, having earned the trust and respect of his colleagues.

Eric has been an important pro-Israel voice in the House and a leader on security issues, including Iran sanctions. We deeply appreciate his efforts to keep our country secure and to support our allies around the world.

On the other side of the partisan aisle, according to Ellana Cahn of the National Jewish Democratic Council:

The National Jewish Democratic Council notes that the defeat of Congressman Eric Cantor at the hands of a Tea Party challenger has left the Republican Party with no Jewish voice in Congress.  Cong. Cantor was bested by a challenger who campaigned against sensible immigration policies, the kind of policies that enabled Mr. Cantor’s family to become United States citizens.  The American Jewish community has long understood a hospitable approach to immigration to be one of its strongest values.

Sorry Tea Partiers, the IRS Is Not “Obama’s Gestapo”

Yesterday, we printed an article by David Streeter discussing a Tea Party fundraising appeal which characterizes the Internal Revenue Service as “Obama’s Gestapo.” Personally, I deplore political bias by the IRS, regardless of its direction. Nevertheless, making over-the-top comparisons to Nazis desecrates the memory of the Holocaust.

The IRS has not set out to exterminate the right-wing groups. The IRS was not threatening them with the loss to the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. The IRS was trying to determine whether their purpose was mostly political, which would make them ineligible for 501(c)4 Social Welfare Organization status.

Keep in mind that not being a 501(c)4 is not the end of the world. Even if they were judged as “too political” to form a 501(c)4, they could refile as 527 Political Action Committees. Both 501(c)4s and PACs can take unlimited contributions, so there is no difference there. The groups were not claiming to be charitable 501(c)3 groups, so there was no question of the donors getting a tax deduction for the contributions.

Neither 501(c)4s nor PACs pay taxes on the contributions they receive, so there was no question of the Tea Party groups having to pay anything regardless of their answers to these questions from the IRS.

So what is the difference between a Political Action Committee and a 501(c)4?

The basic difference is that while 501(c)4 can keep their donor list secret, PACs (but not “Super PACs”) must disclose them.

In other words, the IRS (a.k.a. “Obama’s Gestapo”) was after disclosure, not blood or money. At worst, the Tea Party groups risked having to divulge the names of their backers. This isn’t a case of persecuted groups being threatened physically or financially. This is a case of shadowy backers trying to influence the political process while keeping out of the light of day.

Focusing the IRS’s attention on a particular political group was indeed wrong, but it was a wrong on the order of an administrative screw-up, not a wrong on the order of war crimes and genocide.

After the jump, more on what went wrong and what should be done about it.
From the information available so far, it seems that the decision to focus on certain groups was made by low-level civil servants at the IRS’s Cincinnati office, not at the direction of their managers.

Scrutiny should have been universal.

At the time, there was a surge in questionable applications for 501(c)4 status. It would have been reasonable to scrutinize all 501(c)4 applications closely. However, budget cutting had already left the office without the necessary staff and resources to cope with the existing load. (This is a case of being “penny-wise and dollar-foolish.” According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, a dollar of increased spending on IRS enforcement results in ten dollars in increased federal revenue, due to greater compliance with tax laws.”)

Given political and economic realities, perhaps they should have audited a random sample of the 501(c)4 applications, or they should have proposed non-biased criteria and had them approved via the proper channels. It was tone-deaf and unfair to single out specific groups on partisan criteria.

Unfortunately, that is not what they did. Instead, their scrutiny fell predominantly (but not exclusively) on right-wing groups. In addition to more than 90 Tea Party groups that were examined, at least three liberal groups faced similar scrutiny. According to Bloomberg:

The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.

One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.

Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.

The IRS non-profit office exercised poor judgment in its targeting, but the mistake does not appear to have been made for political purposes. If the IRS was being used politically by the White House, Mitt Romney would not have been able to keep his tax returns secret, and liberal groups would not have received the same inquiries that Tea Party groups did.

In order to avoid problems like this in the future:

  • The IRS budget should be increased so that it can examine fully all 501(c)4 applications.
  • The IRS administration needs to be hands-on and aware of what front-line employees are doing, and provide clear guidelines to direct the targeting of audits.
  • The FEC, rather than the IRS, should be given jurisdiction over the political activity of non-profit groups.
  • 501(c)4s should not be allowed to contribute to Political Action Committees. Doing so effectively turns them into front groups for these PACs allowing donors to camouflage their support for them.
  • Campaign finance law should be reformed so that no political contributions can be made anonymously.

GOP Must Condemn Comparison of IRS to Gestapo by Tea Party Group

— by David Streeter

Last night, TheTeaParty.net sent a fundraising appeal with a graphic that labeled the IRS “Obama’s Gestapo.” As unacceptable as their graphic was, the fact that they were looking to raise money off of their Gestapo comparison is even more offensive.

We’ve repeatedly seen Tea Party groups engaging in this type of behavior, and we demand that Republicans, including Tea Party mouthpieces Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), condemn this crass political stunt.

Netanyahu and Obama are in a similar bind

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are both in the midst of fruitless negotiations for basically the same reason.

Obama is negotiating with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff while Netanyahu is negotiating with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The President offered Boehner huge concessions reducing stimulus spending from $425B to $175B, abandoning extension of the payroll tax holiday and slashing entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) by $725B in order to obtain a modest 2% increase in taxes for the wealthiest 0.7% of Americans which he could have obtained automatically simply by waiting for New Year’s. Boehner and Obama seemed close to an agreement and much was made of the fact that neither was willing to bridge the (relatively) small gap that remained between them.

However, in the end the inability to come to agreement with Boehner was probably irrelevant since Obama was negotiating with someone who did not have to power to deliver the votes. Boehner was unable to get enough votes to pass his own so-called “Plan B” which would have raised taxes on the poorest Americans by up to $1500 by eliminating the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit while simultaneously permitting tax rates to rise for 400,000 extremely wealthy families. Boehner’s failure Thursday night to win support for his plan from the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party forced him to shutter Congress for the holidays  without avoiding the “fiscal cliff.”

Similarly, one Israeli government after another is having difficulty bringing Abbas to the negotiating table let alone coming to a peace agreement with him despite a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, economic support for the Palestinian Authority and other concessions. However, this failure is almost irrelevant since the Palestinian Authority is not really controlled by its nominal figurehead Abbas in Ramallah, but rather by Hamas in Gaza.

So why does Netanyahu waste his time talking to Abbas when it is clear that the leadership of Hamas holds all the cards?

The problem is that Hamas is a terrorist organization which by its very charter defines itself as devoted to the complete destruction of the State of Israel. By choosing essentially civilian targets and terror tactics, Hamas holds itself outside the rules of conventional warfare and maintains its status as a pariah organization with whom negotiation is anathema.

Similarly, the Tea Party has shown itself time and time again willing to hold the economy of the country hostage to its own interests. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution says that our national debt “shall not be questioned.” Unlike Greece, our debt is in our own sovereign currency. If worse came to worst, our lenders should know that we can always simply print what we owe them, so they could consider United States Bonds to be completely risk-free and charge us the lowest rate available. However, by playing a game of “chicken” with the debt ceiling, the Tea Party puts the entire solvency of our country needlessly into doubt.

Now with the fiscal cliff, Grover Norquist and his Tea Party allies are unwilling to bend on the smallest tax increase for the wealthiest Americans in order to avoid across the board tax increases and automatic budget cuts will would certainly put our economic recover into jeopardy.  

Since Netanyahu and Obama’s real opponents (Hamas and the Tea Party) are intractable ideologues with whom there is no hope of negotiating, Netanyahu and Obama persist in hoping that negotiating with figureheads (Abbas and Boehner) will give their negotiating partners the “street-cred” necessary to make a deal.

Well, good luck with that!

Pennsylvania Senate Candidate Praises Holocaust Rhetoric

(NJDC) Once again, a Republican candidate for office has condoned — and even applauded — the use of offensive Holocaust rhetoric. Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith took the stage at the Blair County Tea Party FreedomFest 2012 where he praised a Tea Party speaker who he said spoke “eloquently”-despite the fact that he had just finished comparing President Barack Obama to Adolph Hitler.

The Huffington Post’s John Celock reported:

‘As the gentleman that was speaking before me was so eloquently saying about so many things,’ Smith said prior to giving a speech regarding Obama’s energy policies.

Smith is challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and has been backed by several national Tea Party groups including the Tea Party Express.

[Preceding spekaer Phil] Waite started by discussing what he called the history of various economic and governmental policies, including those that he deemed socialist. He said the Obama administration is employing socialist policies, similar to those employed by the Communists in the Soviet Union and Fascists in Germany.

‘I will not allow a group of Marxist, Socialist law professors, left-wing extremists to annihilate my country without a fight,’ Waite said.

Waite launched into a diatribe about the Nazi Party and Hitler, saying that Obama and Hitler both wanted to centralize power and strip local governments’ authority.

‘All other parties were outlawed, all free elections were outlawed, 45 million dead people later, we ended that regime,’ Waite said. ‘Why? Because you had a slick, quick talker and someone who said ‘you don’t need to worry about responsibility, we’ll take good care of you. Just walk the party line and smile.’ And you know how that ended up.’…

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party was quick to condemn Smith and Waite.

‘The speaker’s comments were shocking, but it’s not surprising that … Tom Smith applauded the extremism of his fellow Tea Partier,’ party spokesman Mark Nicastre said in an email. ‘After all Smith is a self-proclaimed ‘Tea Party guy’, who founded his own local Tea Party. Throughout his campaign, Smith has embraced all of the extreme policies and extreme rhetoric of the Tea Party, and this is just the latest example of how out-of-touch Tom Smith is with middle-class Pennsylvanians.’

As we have said repeatedly, invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is never acceptable and the use of this type of language should be condemned by all. Period.  

Satire: Customer Service

Ring.

Hello, Romneytron 2012 Customer Service. “Believe in America.” How may I help you?

Hi, I just voted for the Romneytron 2012 but I am not sure its empathy circuit is acting right.

What do you mean?

It is saying all sorts of strange things like: “I like to fire people who provide services to me” and “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” It even strapped its dog to the roof of the car for a twelve-hour road trip and shows no sign of remorse.

More after the jump.

It sounds like it is stuck in “Tea Party mode”. Have you tried resetting it?

That’s what I thought. I called earlier when the Romneytron locked up the nomination and your colleague Eric Fehrnstrom said “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”


Did that help?

Not really. It turns out the Romneytron assaulted a student who he suspected of being gay, forced him to the ground and clipped his hair with a pair of scissors. And now he shows no regret for having committed a hate crime.

I don’t know what you customers want. You said the Romneytron 2001 was too French. You said the Romneytron 2002 was too pro-Choice. You said the Romneytron 2008 wasn’t conservative enough. There is no way to satisfy you people.

What ever happened to “The customer is always right?” I just want a leader who cares about my problems and will take my side.

Click.

I love being able to hang up on people.

NJDC Congratulates Representative-Elect Janice Hahn

–by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) congratulates Janice Hahn on her successful bid to represent California’s 36th Congressional district. In the special election held today, Hahn defeated her Tea Party-backed Republican opponent, Craig Huey, and dealt a blow to the hopes of Republican leaders who had hoped to send another extremist candidate to Washington, DC. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris released the following statement in response to Hahn’s victory:

“On behalf of the National Jewish Democratic Council, I wish Representative-elect Janice Hahn the best of luck as she continues her career in public service by representing her community at the federal level. We look forward to working with Hahn and continuing the fight for the progressive values she shares with the vast majority of American Jews. After two special elections in this off-cycle year, the growing trend is clear: Americans want leaders to fight against the increasingly extremist agenda of the Republican Party. Hahn has demonstrated that she is ready to do just that.”

Throughout her race against Huey, Hahn distinguished herself as the only candidate that represented the values of most American Jews.

More after the jump.
Hahn pledged her support for Israel and President Barack Obama’s efforts to strengthen the bilateral relationship. Specifically, she expressed support for Obama’s intensified security assistance to Israel, the Administration’s additional sanctions against Iran, and the Administration’s condemnation of anti-Israel rhetoric in international bodies.

Hahn has also been described as “a true fighter on the side of working people” by the L.A. County Federation of Labor.  She has been an ardent proponent of President Obama’s health care reform package and has pledged to protect and expand it.  Hahn also firmly opposes privatizing social security and turning Medicare into a voucher system.

Individuals like Hahn who reflect Jewish values in their policy priorities serve as a reminder to the Jewish community that the Democratic Party remains the only party that advocates for Jewish values within the halls of Congress.

Sarah Palin Confuses “Blood Libel” with “Libel”

Sarah Palin was recently interviewed by Sean Hannity, another host on Fox News. Hannity asked her if she knew the meaning of the term “Blood Libel” which she used to describe efforts to link conservative rhetoric with the shooting of Jewish Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson:

Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused.

According to Google:

Blood libels are false and sensationalized allegations that a person or group engages in human sacrifice, often accompanied by the claim that the blood of the victims is used in various rituals and/or acts of cannibalism. The alleged victims are often children.

whereas Google defines “libel” as

a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person.

Mainstream Republicans Scared to Death by Tea Party

Several mainstream Republicans have resigned from leadership roles in Arizona’s 20th Legislative District due to concerns about the safety of their families in light of threats from the Awtaukee Tea Party, and the recent massacre in Tucson.

Anthony Miller resigned as chair of the Republican party in the 20th district along with Republican party secretary Sophia Johnson, the district Republican vice-chairman Roger Dickinson, and the district Republican spokesman Jeff Kolb.

Miller, a 43-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident and former campaign worker for U.S. Sen. John McCain, was re-elected to a second one-year term last month. He said constant verbal attacks after that election and Internet blog posts by some local members with Tea Party ties made him worry about his family’s safety.

In an e-mail sent a few hours after Saturday’s massacre in Tucson that killed six and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Miller told state Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen he was quitting: “Today my wife of 20 yrs ask (sic) me do I think that my PCs (Precinct Committee members) will shoot at our home? So with this being said I am stepping down from LD20GOP Chairman…I will make a full statement on Monday.”

“I wasn’t going to resign but decided to quit after what happened Saturday,” Miller said. “I love the Republican Party but I don’t want to take a bullet for anyone.”

Read more in the Arizona Republic.