Well, that’s it for immigration reform this year. Or maybe not.
The conventional wisdom that erupted from the volcanic primary defeat of Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor — an election that drew a laughably anemic turnout and a badly run campaign by the incumbent — was that his relatively moderate, or waffling, stance on immigration legislation did him in.
So said Cantor’s triumphant opponent, David Brat, a free-market warrior: “It’s the most symbolic issue that captures the difference between myself and Eric Cantor.” Yet other Republicans who have backed some versions of immigration reform, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have not gone down in tea party flames.
And when the smoke clears, it’s quite possible that mainstream Republicans, big business, agriculture interests and others who are trying to bring the party around on immigration reform this year will prevail.
Absolutist tea partiers like Brat see immigration reform in simplistic terms: They believe they’re protecting American workers and jobs from those who would gladly accept the lowest of low wages from big business to pick vegetables, can seafood and clean skyscraper offices. But they’re wrong on that and they’re incapable of recognizing humanitarian considerations.
Majority Republicans appear to be sensitive to the notion that their inability to positively address a significant issue affecting Hispanics and other ethnic Americans borders on political suicide. That pragmatism is delicately driving the possibility of a bipartisan solution to the long-vexing dilemma. We’re hoping the gut reactions to Cantor’s defeat are wrong and the House will continue on the path of immigration reform sooner rather than later.