There has been a lot of talk in the blogs and in local and national news about the heckling and boos that Eric Cantor received when he gave his speech at the 7th District GOP convention this past Saturday. Many felt it was unseemly and disrespectful. I personally don’t like booing even when a referee makes a bad call, but I think you can better understand the response from this past Saturday if you have context:
- Eric Cantor has made it abundantly clear to all his constituents that town hall meetings are beneath him. His consultant, Ray Allen, once told me years ago that Eric Cantor would ‘NEVER’ do a town hall meeting. The sentiment was, ‘over my dead body!’ #WhereisCantor? (FYI – Scripted Advisory Council meetings that are about fundraising don’t count!)
- Voters don’t like it when they don’t have access to their legislator, especially when they are supposedly representing you.
- Conservatives are tired of Cantor doing one thing in Congress and telling a different story when he comes home. When the recent kerfuffle happened in Congress between Cantor and the House Republican caucus, many of us felt like telling Cantor’s legislative colleagues – “Welcome to our world in the 7th!”
- Cantor has refused to debate Brat because he is too busy doing “the people’s business.” #WhereIsCantor? (Sidebar: how does he know what that is if he won’t host town hall meetings?)
- Cantor is running negative TV and radio commercials against Brat that are false. His mailers are just as blatantly misleading.
- Cantor has backed an Independent candidate over the Republican candidate and showed tepid support for some of our other great conservative Republican candidates.
With this historical backdrop in mind, Cantor takes the stage and immediately goes on the attack against the guy that Cantor is supposedly not worried about – Dave Brat. When Cantor takes the stage, it is visibly evident that he is seething mad and has forgotten his position. The normal approach of an incumbent who claims a large lead in the polls would be to give a speech that goes, “Thanks for having me. I’m awesome. Here are all the wonderful things I’ve been doing for you. You guys are awesome too. Thanks for all you do. Please vote. Good night!”
Cantor says that he is tempted to, “fight fire with fire, but let me just leave you with some thoughts,” but Cantor proceeds to throw fire anyway. Cantor provokes negative reactions with his false attacks. For once people are able to voice their discontent directly with Cantor without needing to go through a mandated form letter tool on Cantor’s website.
Here is the thing, the Republican Round Up was a fantastic idea by Linwood Cobb. People like to have a good time and see that people involved in politics are fun and approachable. But it is not enough. More than anything people are hungry to talk with their representative about substantive issues, because overreaching government actions have severely impacted people’s bank accounts, jobs and families.
The negative reaction Cantor witnessed this past Saturday was a culmination of all the frustrations mentioned earlier. A continued stiff-arm approach with voters in his district will only make matters worse. Conservatives want a seat at the table, they want to be heard, they want their thoughts taken into consideration, and they want transparent and principled voting. Let’s see if Cantor takes away any ‘lessons learned’ from Saturday’s convention…