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Former House Leader Eric Cantor Visits JMU

Christopher Clymer Kurtz

Yesterday at James Madison University, as part of its “Democracy in Peril?” forum about current politics, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor addressed approximately 75 people, many of them students, gathered in James Madison Hall. WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports.

Eric Cantor was a delegate in the Virginia General Assembly for a decade, then spent 13 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, including four years as House Majority Leader. After losing his 2014 primary race, he resigned from Congress and became a world-traveling vice chairman of an investment bank.

He said before his talk that while there is “stress being put on the institutions of our democracy,” democracy is not in peril. He pointed to last week’s confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

ERIC CANTOR: You saw the other justices there at his swearing in; I think that is absolutely a signal that we have our institution of the courts and judiciary intact.

He spoke about topics including the impact of social and online media on current polarization, and repeated President Obama’s famous words to him back in 2009:

CANTOR: “Eric, Elections have consequences, and I won, so we’re going to do it my way.”

Such disregard for compromise with the Republican minority then, said Cantor, helped set the stage for the current polarization and radicalization in public debate.

What needs to happen, he said, is for lawmakers to avoid identity politics, to take off their team jerseys and talk about the issues at hand.

That message resonated, said Virginia Delegate Republican Tony Wilt afterward.

TONY WILT: We can disagree on policy, and maybe that disagreement causes both of us to come back and negotiate on that policy. How can we make that policy better?

The next “Democracy in Peril?” event will feature Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, a senior fellow for the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now, at 5:00 on Oct. 29.

Christopher Clymer Kurtz was a freelance journalist for WMRA from 2015 - 2019.