Cantor's Fall: Blame Immigration or Ambition?

Immigration worries are back in the headlines after a sudden flurry of media attention to what has been a slowly building humanitarian catastrophe, the increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors reaching the U.S. southern border, some as young as 5 and 6, after a perilous crossing through Mexico from Central America. Escaping increasing violence and poverty in Central American states—El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala—where drug trafficking and street gang thuggery are driving up homicide rates, something in the vicinity of 60,000 of these minors, often “supervised” by coyote networks paid by their families, are expected this year to reach the border.The Obama administration worries that even more will come next year, as many as 130,000. The children’s crusade to the U.S. border is unprecedented. As recently as 2011 a mere 6,000 or so unaccompanied minors were tracked reaching the U.S./Mexico border.

Comprehensive immigration reform is also in the news because of an 11th hour push by U.S. bishops to highlight the issue this month as reform’s political fortunes flickered. “The time to act is now,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a June 5 statement. “As pastors, we see the human consequences of this broken system each day in our parishes and social service programs, as families are separated, migrant workers are exploited, and our fellow human beings risk everything to find a better life for themselves and the ones they love,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Our nation should no longer tolerate an unjust system.”

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But now after the surprise-slaying of House Republican Majority Leader, Eric Cantor most political analysts seem to have reached a consensus that a fork has been properly put into immigration reform. The Richmond, Virginia Republican had been seen as most likely to succeed House Speaker John Boehner, but last night he lost in the Republican primary to a Tea Party neophyte, the “red hot” economics professor from Randolph-Macon College, David Brat. Many observers say its was Brat’s focus on Cantor’s position on immigration that abruptly ended Cantor’s political career in this unprecedented loss. Brat, a Catholic fan of Ayn Rand, insisted that Cantor was willing to make a deal on reform, alleging that his flip-flopping on immigration masked his acceptance of “amnesty” for undocumented residents, a worry that many analysts allege was the decisive concern among Cantor’s Richmond constituents. Cantor can’t say that the $5.5 million he raised during this election cycle was money well spent against Brat’s $200,000. Brat managed to poll 12 points ahead of Cantor—56 to 44 percent—in a lightly attended primary vote.

Beltway analysts at Politico insist that the outcome means there is no chance that any Republican will risk appearing even remotely favorable to immigration reform—even as problems related to the current immigration policy literally pile up at the border. But a counter narrative, oddly enough, also surfaced at Politico, which suggests that Cantor’s troubles can’t all be laid at amnesty’s door. A poll conducted election night in Cantor’s district, commissioned by the liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change, attributed Cantor’s loss not to immigration, but to widespread dissatisfaction with the Congress member and with House Republican leadership in general. In fact, pollsters report that immigration reform “is actually quite popular in his district and voters want to see Congress act on it this year.” In fact, according to the June 11 survey, 72 percent of the voters in Cantor’s district support the bipartisan immigration reform legislation on the table in Washington right now with only 23 percent opposed

The fact that Sen. Lindsey Graham, considered far more favorable to immigration reform than Cantor, was easily renominated last night in South Carolina the same night suggests the Cantor story in Richmond might be more complicated than a voter revolt against immigration reform. Supporters of reform may take some consolation in this perspective. Reports of CIR’s demise may prove greatly exaggerated.

 

PHOTO: Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bus, wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a bus station in Phoenix May 29. Latin American an d U.S. Catholic leaders are calling for greater protections for migrants, especially the record number of minors making the trip from Central America to the U.S. alone.

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J Cosgrove
3 years 6 months ago
I saw a couple things that said it had little to do with immigration. Cantor was seen as someone who did not represent his district, rarely there and seemed to have national ambitions. Also a couple articles said it was a heavy turnout and some said the presence of Mark Levin in his district was a big factor.
John Walton
3 years 6 months ago
Well informed say that Cantor had seriously neglected his constituency in the past 2 years, was more vulnerable at the grass roots than his pollsters could estimate.
David Hopper
3 years 6 months ago
Speaking as someone who voted against Cantor in Virginia's "open" primary, although not a member of the GOP, it seems to me that almost no one actually liked Cantor. Even most conservatives I know who shared the views he espoused, did not like him and think he is a smarmy opportunist. Brat's supporters tended to be rabid, Tea Party types (accusing Cantor, of all people, of being a socialist collaborator with Obama) and were thus highly motivated to turn out, although in many, if not most areas, this was the only thing on the ballot. Cantor's actual supporters, to the extent he had any, weren't very motivated, especially given that Cantor did little to no work organizing and released an internal poll shortly before the election showing him far, far ahead. Between a motivated, ultra-conservative base in a gerrymandered district, and non-republicans like me who thought that it would be better to have a less powerful person than Cantor casting pretty much exactly the same votes Cantor would actually have cast, the win for Brat was not all that surprising. My hope is that Brat, being a much weaker candidate because of his lack of institutional support and seriously loathsome and extremist views, may be able to be knocked off in 2016 where Cantor could never have been defeated by a Democrat in the 7th District. My great disappointment is that the Democrats have abandoned Howard Dean's 50-state strategy and weren't even planning on running anyone until a couple of weeks ago. Otherwise, they might have stood some chance of unseating Brat this fall.
Carlos Orozco
3 years 6 months ago
Still believe in partisan politics, David? Good versus evil. Democrats versus nasty Repulicans, is it?
ed gleason
3 years 6 months ago
Immigration was not a good reason. Try the fact that Cantor, being Jew, in his first election primary did not sit well with rural right wing Virginians. Identity politics is still alive and doing it's unwell. ..
John Barbieri
3 years 6 months ago
"All politics are local." -(The late) Congressman Tip O'Neil Apparently, Cantor was not attentive to his constituents. If that was the case, he deserved to lose.
John Barbieri
3 years 6 months ago
"All politics are local." -(The late) Congressman Tip O'Neil Apparently, Cantor was not attentive to his constituents. If that was the case, he deserved to lose.
Carlos Orozco
3 years 6 months ago
Does AIPAC now screen comments in this site? Why was my previous comment deleted?
Carlos Orozco
3 years 6 months ago
Too bad neocon Lindsey Graham survived his primary election: would have loved to see McCain cry the loss of his very special friend. The mainstream media has been trying to whitewash the fall of Cantor as some radical takeover from the Right. Bringing illegal immigration in is a deviation tactic, conveniently avoiding the discussion of actual sinister issues. Supporting perpetual warfare and the interests of the international banking cartel CAN get you to bite the dust. My God, the peasants are revolting! Call Homeland Security!
john andrechak
3 years 6 months ago
what I learned of Brat's stand on economics, the use of the term in the general political sense, is that it is very similar to E. Warren's. Once there was floated the scenario of a Palin, or actually Palin, going off the ranch, combining the Right's social populism, (hate/ fear of the other), with an economic populism, taking on the corporations, banks, WS; perhaps Brat will be a local version of this act. This begs the question, which, if either, of the two parties break with the Corporatists? A Warren version, of social inclusion / economic progressivism, or that of Brat's? Not much of a chance for the NDP, with HRC being the nominee apparent

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