The Cure for ‘Cantor’

Many folks have heard the term “cantor.” It is defined as “a person who sings solo verses or passages to which the choir or congregation responds.” However, there is another type of “Cantor,” about which many were unaware prior to this week. It is a localized condition that has been found to exist in certain “beltway areas” around political capitols. Hopefully, some Tennessee politicians learned that the condition can be deadly and will avail themselves of the only known cure.

Much like any malignancy, a “Cantor” arises when a political official allows the “belt” that surrounds all political capitols to get too tight around his or her neck. The “tightening” of the belt results in the politician’s brain not getting enough “constituent air,” and a “Cantor” begins to grow on the brain. Eventually, the “Cantor” produces political amnesia, which is what eventually really kills the politician’s career.

That seems to have been the cause of the political demise this week of soon-to-be former U.S. Representative Eric Cantor. By all accounts, Rep. Cantor began his political career in the Virginia legislature and in D.C. as a solid social and fiscal conservative.

And while Rep. Cantor remained conservative on some issues, it became clear to a significant majority of his constituents that on some important issues he stopped breathing in the oxygen expelled by their voices clamoring to be heard, particularly on the issue of immigration.

I don’t know to what extent Rep. Cantor’s thinking on immigration changed, but I have little doubt that the constituent oxygen his brain needed began to be polluted by the deadly fumes given off by large piles of money available to and provided to politicians by the large corporate special interests known to inhabit beltways.

I speak of this condition because in 1994 I happened to win a state Senate election that some say was caused by a “Cantor” that had begun to attack the incumbent politician against whom I ran. During the twelve years I was in the state Senate, I saw a few other politicians with whom I served succumb to a “Cantor.” And I see some “Cantors” beginning to attack some of our state legislators.

One of the telltale signs of a growing “Cantor” is the expressed belief by politicians that their colleagues in important positions are the ones who make them effective. This belief leads to giving those people their allegiance instead of those back home. That reduces the necessary flow of constituent oxygen.

Another sign is an increasing tendency to exhibit a “government-is-the-answer-to-our-problems” mentality. A sure sign of a growing “Cantor” is the politician who responds to such an accusation by essentially saying nothing other than “our government solution is better than the other guy’s solution” or “we can do government better than the other guy.” And further evidence of this “government-is-the-answer” mentality is an increasing unwillingness or reluctance to provide leadership in standing up for timeless moral values that undergird individual responsibility, marriage, and families and opposing policies that tend to undermine those values.

Thankfully, in remarking upon the “platform” he used to campaign against Rep. Cantor, David Brat articulated a “cure” for those in elected office with early onset Cantorism. Here is the tonic, in the order of importance in which he articulated it.

1.    “First of all, I attribute it to God. I’m really humbled and thankful – I’m a Believer and so I’m humbled that God gave us this win.”

2.    “I ran on Republican principles. . . . The first one is commitment to free markets. We don’t have any free markets in this country any more. Then equal treatment under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional adherence, peace through strong defense, and faith in God and strong moral fiber. That’s what I ran on.”

Let’s hope that what happened this week will encourage some of our state’s politicians to do a check-up during this election season to make sure they are getting enough constituent oxygen to avoid “Cantor”-related death.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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