Eric Cantor’s primary defeat last night offers a good explanation for why so many Republicans are no longer willing to back efforts to protect voting rights. After the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating a key section of the VRA last year, Cantor vowed to “find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected.” He was the only member of the GOP leadership to take such a position. Supporters of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 were counting on his support (even though he remained noncommittal to date).
The bill was written specifically with Cantor in mind, watered down on the key issue of voter ID to attract GOP support. I was told recently from a well-placed Capitol Hill source that Cantor planned to eventually announce his support for the bill, but was waiting for the right strategic moment. Now it’s unlikely he will be in Congress in 2014 and even more unlikely the legislation can get through the House without him.
In the run-up to the primary, Tea Party groups like True the Vote attacked Cantor for indicating a willingness to potentially support the bill (even equivocation is now a sin!). “Over the past several months we have observed an alarming ambiguity in your position,” six conservative groups wrote to Cantor earlier this week, requesting a meeting to stress their opposition to the VRA bill. The signees included former Reagan attorney general Ed Meese. “This bill will fundamentally and intentionally change American elections into race-reliant battleﬁelds.”