House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is heading north of the Mason-Dixon Line tonight to visit the liberal environs of Harvard University and outline a conservative economic vision.
In a speech at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which will be webcast live at 6 p.m., the Virginia Republican will speak of a country he sees at an economic crossroads, confronting two alternate visions.
One echoes the image of protests that swept Europe last year and continue in some places today, as members of the public and government workers rebelled against cuts in pension and other entitlement programs.
The other is the image of town hall meetings that played out across America in 2009, propelling the anti-government Tea Party revolution and helping the GOP reclaim the House majority this past November.
Cantor said one view is of a future dependent on government financing; the other is rooted in personal entrepreneurship.
“If you think about it, these were very young people worried about their retirement benefits before they’ve worked their career," Cantor told the Globe in reference to some of the participants in Greece, France, and other European nations.
The town hall participants, by contrast, "choose a future based on individual actions, opportunity not created by the government but by the private sector," he said.
Cantor, the top deputy to House Speaker John Boehner, insists his is not a partisan analysis, only a philosophical one. But his comments echoed a partisan opinion piece he recently wrote for Politico, in which he criticized President Obama's budget proposal and said "kicking the can down the road is no substitute for real leadership. Just ask Greece."
In the same column, he urged action to avoid "a European-style debt crisis."
Cantor said an relying too heavily on government support forces increased spending. That triggers tax increases that, in turn, sap capital from the private marketplace. Reducing business taxes and reducing government regulation, he argues, will help keep capital in the private sector.
As to why he's taking his message to an Ivy League institution oft-derided by conservatives, Cantor said: "Harvard is one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the world. We’ve been successful in America because we’ve been able to educate our population to think critically. It’s allowed America to become the crucible of innovation.’’
His deputy chief of staff, John Murray, said the visit is the leader's ongoing campaign to speak "beyond the base," including reaching out to young people, minorities, and university audiences.
Cantor has already spoken at William & Mary and had a speech at the University of Michigan snowed out. He's headed next for Stanford University.
The goal is to make "more of a vision statement than a political statement.”
Murray added: "We have a very systematic strategy to ensure that the work we are doing here inside the Beltway is being transmitted and translated in good venues," he said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.