We The People: Pragmatism and politics must align

How was Eric Cantor defeated in a primary race by neophyte challenger David Brat? Cantor, next in line to become speaker of the House, a national leader and successful fundraiser for the GOP, raised over $5 million dollars for the campaign and outspent Brat 25 to 1.

The low turnout in the primary allowed activists to exert a disproportionate influence in selecting the candidate for the general election. Brat said, “God acted through the people… “, when asked about the victory.

The conservative media, including Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter, marshaled support for Brat. Ingraham, a best-selling author, frequently attacked “liberal elitists” on her syndicated radio show, and expects Brat will be staunchly opposed to immigration reform.

Cantor was a conservative although he did soften his stance on immigration reform. CNN analyst Gloria Borger noted that the loss by a Republican with conservative credentials to an extremist challenger reflects that the GOP is at a turning point.

In the future, only extremely conservative Republicans may be able to withstand a primary challenge from an extremist. Representative Lee Terry [R- Nebraska] noted that Cantor’s participation in bipartisan negotiations to avert a government shut down last fall “was used against him … The message to us is, negotiation or compromise could get you beat.”

The message is true but it is wrong. If we allow ourselves to be hatefully divided by religion, ethnicity and politics, we have lost the essence of our democracy.

Senator Thad Cochran is trying to hold off challenger Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party favorite, in a run-off primary in Mississippi. McDaniel panders to anti-immigrant and anti-gun regulation groups. He has described women of Hispanic heritage as “mamacitas.” This is who we can get to lead us if we fail to recognize divisive ideologues.

If we allow our leaders to place a greater value on philosophical purity over pragmatic engagement, then the opportunity to do good is sacrificed. You must get along with people even if you disagree with them in order to get things done.

The American people were asked to accept reports that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction without question. This empowered President Bush to commit military and economic resources to an invasion of Iraq.

We went on to attack Iraq and occupy it for more than eight years. It cost the American people, beyond the incalculable sacrifice of American lives, between $3 and $5 trillion when all costs are counted. In 2003, President Bush announced, “Mission Accomplished,” but in 2011 Marines were still fighting the insurgents. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found.

The resources spent to assure the security, health and welfare of the Iraqi people came at the expense of the security, health and welfare of the American people. In the end, large corporations reaped hundreds of billions in profit during the war and Iraq teeters on the precipice of anarchy. It may become a better haven for terrorist organizations if it falls now than it ever was under Saddam Hussein.

Islamist insurgents known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria occupied Mosul and now threaten Bagdad. The conservative media that glibly communicates xenophobic and jingoistic ideas will attempt to put full responsibility for the current situation there on President Obama. They will carry that contention forward to any Democratic candidate for the White House.

The Tea Party and conservative ideologues will attempt to use the current situation in Iraq to gain momentum for a Republican candidate for the White House. A President Bush III? (Jeb Bush). Any rhetoric of a triumphal return to Bagdad should be tempered with our knowledge that any sacrifice of blood and money cannot assure stability for an area hopelessly divided by religion, ethnicity and politics.

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