Bob Franken: The meaning test

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, June 14, 2014 6:24pm
  • Opinion

Back in the day, when I was a TV reporter, I had this fantasy live shot where the anchor would toss it to me with “And now, here is Bob Franken with a report on what it all means. Bob, what does it all mean?”

“Nothing, Scott. It means absolutely nothing.”

Which brings us to the surprise loss by Eric Cantor. Ever since the House majority leader got knocked off by obscure tea-party-backed (pardon the redundancy) college professor David Brat, the political sharks and their symbiotic pundits have been in a frenzy. If we were to take all the hyperventilating to heart, the Cantor upset is the end of civilization as we now know it.

Well, in the immortal words of Bart Simpson: “Don’t have a cow, man!” This will be considered outright heresy inside the Beltway, but Eric Cantor’s upset will NOT end civilization as we know it. A hundred years from now, no one will remember that the House majority leader got taken out in his party’s primary. In fact, it’ll be less than a hundred hours before we contrive some new crisis.

Stuff happens. Eight-hundred-pound gorillas get felled by guerrillas every once in a while, and frankly, the House majority leader really is more like a 400-pound gorilla. So, we need to get a grip. Those commentators who are filling the news black hole by declaring that Cantor’s defeat means that immigration reform doesn’t have a chance this year need a reminder that immigration reform never really had a chance this year. The gridlock will stay the same.

Those Republican leaders who were suggesting it was possible were either pretending in an effort to win over some gullible Hispanic voters or they were on some sort of drug. If they thought they could soften the hard-line bias of their base, they were obviously popping Deludes. Eric Cantor was one of those trying to straddle the middle.

Big mistake. There is no middle. In fact, a new Pew Research poll tells us what we already know: We are so badly split that 27 percent of the Democrats responding “see the Republican Party as a threat to the nation’s well-being,” while 36 percent of Republicans have the same view of Democrats.

We could describe everyone else as the “Disgusted Majority.” Come to think of it, they are the ones who sank Eric Cantor. So maybe there actually was a little meaning to his demise. That, plus the lesson that even in politics there’s such a thing as too much hubris. Or ineptitude.

Cantor believed his consultants, who assured him that he didn’t have to sweat the election, that it was a done deal. It turned out to be a dumb deal, and now his operatives are doing what they do best: deflecting blame, complaining that it was the Democrats’ fault. Democrats are delightedly pleading guilty. Virginia is an open primary state, which means you don’t have to be registered in one party to vote in its election. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book of mischief for the other side to try to bring down a candidate. In this case, former Congressman Ben Jones was very public about encouraging his fellow Democrats to do just that. And they did. Chances are Cantor’s hired guns won’t be putting this campaign in their resumes.

This is just another case of the ambitious up-and-comer suddenly turning into a down-and-outer. The next chapter in the story is that Eric Cantor will run for high office again. Until then, he’ll probably get a TV gig and collect a ton of money making speeches. The rest of us will continue the eternal search for meaning.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his veto of a wide-ranging education bill during a press conference March 16 at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Governor, please pay more attention to Alaskans

Our governor has been a busy guy on big issues.

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Happy Pride Month

This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade