Former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor spoke about the challenges of long-term political decisionmaking in an address at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Monday.
The event, moderated by Shira T. Center, a political editor at the Boston Globe, comes a little less than ten months after Cantor’s primary loss to Randolph-Macon College economics professor David Brat in the race to represent for Virginia’s 7th congressional district in the House of Representatives. Cantor currently serves as vice chairman and managing director at the investment bank Moelis & Company and is one of the IOP’s spring visiting fellows.
Throughout the discussion, Cantor emphasized that the incentive to respond to the “siren of short-termism” is a powerful political force that deters long-term solutions.
“Although one who offers himself up for elected office does so with a long-term vision in mind, to affect some good, there are some forces in work in our electoral system that tend to be much more short-term in nature,” Cantor said. “Just the very sense of a two-year term as a member of Congress tends to be something that is powerful.”
Cantor cited heavy short-term pressure from conservative interest groups as one reason that comprehensive immigration reform has yet to be achieved, stating that there was “very little prospect” of further movement on the issue until after the 2016 presidential election. Cantor said he personally supports granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants, despite the fact that many conservative groups would label such an action as “amnesty.”
Cantor alleged that the refusal of the far left to discuss potential improvements to the Wall Street reform bill known as Dodd-Frank was an example of a similar lack of the spirit of compromise on the liberal end of the spectrum.
“Honestly, there’s no perfect law or legislation—anything can be improved,” Cantor said. “And there’s instances where one wants to improve Dodd-Frank to make it work better, but yet some on the extreme left would say ‘we’re not touching it.’”
Cantor also criticized President Barack Obama, saying that the president’s lack of effort in engaging with the Republicans “on a personal level” and inability to “recogn[ize] political sensibilities” was at least in part responsible for the lack of bipartisan cooperation in Washington.
“What’s missing is the human element, that above all else can at the end of the day force or at least prompt someone—if they’re at all reasonable—into solving problems, risking taking steps that may not be totally what one wants but…could bring people together,” Cantor said.
Regarding his failed bid at reelection, Cantor said that a political miscalculation was to blame, combined with his support of various initiatives that he said did not gain unanimous support from his Republican base.
“The mistake made in my primary was the assumption that we had Republicans only voting,” Cantor concluded.
—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.
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