Cantor's cynical admission on Obamacare

  • 31 July 2017
  • NormanL
Cantor's cynical admission on Obamacare

There are times when the political class lies -- to voters, the press, even itself. But rarely do we get a member of that group to admit to the lie, and do so on the record. Such is the case with former House majority leader Eric Cantor, a man some will recall was unceremoniously dispatched in a GOP primary in 2014 by now-Rep. Dave Brat. In a recent interview with Washingtonian magazine, Cantor, who is now ensconced as the managing director of a boutique investment firm, had this to say about the GOP's promises to repeal Obamacare, if only voters would give them more power:

Remember the summer of 2013, when the “Defund Obamacare Tour” drove the news cycle all through Congress’s August recess? The town halls organized by the political arm of the Heritage Foundation enlivened the base and furthered what had been the GOP’s core message since 2010—that Obamacare was bad and, if Americans helped Republicans hold both chambers, it could be repealed.

Cantor helped create that perception. Earlier that summer—after many failed attempts over the years to shred the law piecemeal—Cantor promised colleagues that the House would vote on a “full repeal.” But even after it did, the measure was dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Cantor—in Congress 13 years and, fairly or unfairly, once thought to be above electoral reproach—paid the price. His 2014 avenger, now-congressman David Brat, bludgeoned him for being soft on Obamacare, among other things. But the failure to make a dent in the law landed a bigger blow on the party. After seven years of pledging they could dismantle Obamacare, if only they had control of Congress and the White House, Republicans—at last in charge of both—have faced deep divisions over a replacement.

Asked if he feels partly responsible for their current predicament, Cantor is unequivocal. “Oh,” he says, “100 percent.”

He goes further: “To give the impression that if Republicans were in control of the House and Senate, that we could do that when Obama was still in office . . . .” His voice trails off and he shakes his head. “I never believed it.”

He says he wasn’t the only one aware of the charade: “We sort of all got what was going on, that there was this disconnect in terms of communication, because no one wanted to take the time out in the general public to even think about ‘Wait a minute—that can’t happen.’ ” But, he adds, “if you’ve got that anger working for you, you’re gonna let it be.”

It’s a stunning admission from a former member of the party leadership—that the linchpin of GOP electoral strategy for the better part of a decade was a fantasy, a flame continually fanned solely because, when it came to midterm elections, it worked. (Barring, of course, his own.)

While Cantor is speaking only from his perspective as a member of the since-displaced House leadership, it is indeed a "stunning" admission, as much for its naked cynicism as anything else. 

And it helps explain why Cantor, and his old chum John Boehner, are no longer in office. The question is whether any additional Republicans will join them in retirement in 2018.