Josh doesn’t think so:
Cantor is no more Jewish now than he was when he rolled to victory in primary after primary and election after election. 2
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) June 11, 2014
But a reader makes a distinction between this year’s primary and the several others in Cantor’s career:
Two factors in Cantor’s defeat that have not been played up as much as one would have thought … at least not yet:
1. Cantor’s district was gerrymandered big time to make it a safe seat for him, under the assumption that Democrats would likely be gunning for him. That left him with a much more rural, Christian district (that was even further to the right than he has been, as impossible as that sounds to anyone who is not a Tea Party disciple). He got burned by his party’s effort, in a purple state, to make sure that suburban Richmond would remain a red congressional seat. Poetic justice, if you ask me.
2. Compounding that, Cantor is Jewish. Anti-Semitism runs pretty deep in Christian conservative districts in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Xenophobia’s cousin, if you will.
A NYT report lends a little weight to that theory:
David Wasserman, a House political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said another, more local factor has to be acknowledged: Mr. Cantor, who dreamed of becoming the first Jewish speaker of the House, was culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented, and more conservative. “Part of this plays into his religion,” Mr. Wasserman said. “You can’t ignore the elephant in the room.”
Some more context on the Jewish angle:
It’s worth noting that Cantor was not merely the only Jewish Republican in the House caucus (one among 233 lawmakers), he was the highest ranking Jewish member of the US Congress in American history. Though there’s no shortage of support on Capitol Hill for Israel, especially among Republicans, Cantor … held a special role for Jewish conservatives in the United States. When Netanyahu visited the United States four years ago, he met privately with Cantor before an official visit with Hillary Clinton, then the US secretary of state at the time, and he told Netanyahu that House Republicans would act as a ‘check’ on the administration of US president Barack Obama.
Although there’s no love lost for Cantor among Jewish Democrats, who largely noted they wouldn’t be sorry to see his exit from Congress and from the House leadership, his loss is a blow to big-tent Republicans who desire as broad and diverse a leadership as possible.
My own feeling is that this is overly paranoid. We’ve seen absolutely no evidence of anti-Semitism in the Brat campaign’s rhetoric, the issue never hurt Cantor before, and there are countless other reasons to explain the loss.