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I recently rode through Richmond, Virginia on the all night train from Savannah, Ga to Washington, DC and I thought of Eric Cantor’s defeat in an historical context. Cantor represented a staunchly right-wing district in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. Only about 100 miles from Washington, DC, Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy. Its defeat and downfall was the goal of Union forces throughout America’s great Civil War.

It is clear that the suburbs of Richmond represent a way of thinking and being that goes back to that great, awful schism in our country.

Cantor played on that schism, made political fortune on that schism and ultimately was defeated by that schism.

The Old South is a dangerous place to play with radical right-wing ideology. It is a dangerous place to take white people to the deepest, darkest places of their souls and encourage hatred and anger.

Eric Cantor did that time and time again.

He thrived on the racist hatred of President Obama. He played that hatred and anger year after year. Cantor punished and hurt America to deny a Black President any victories. Cantor welcomed and blessed the tea baggers–and the hatred he indulged and encouraged ultimately took him down.

I have no idea if part of his defeat was due to anti-Semitism. I do know very well that it is a very short distance from racism to anti-Semitism.

The fire of the “other” burns hot and uncontrollably. If you indulge it, you make yourself a potential victim.

Eric Cantor gave oxygen to the fire of discrimination. He was consumed by the fire he encouraged.

Illustration by Alex Nabaum

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