To quote a playwright named Willie, it’s “the unkindest cut of all.” It’s the dagger that politically speaking seems to have struck at the very heart of not just house majority leader Eric Cantor's political career, but very likely at the very heart of the GOP’s chances of winning over Latino voters for years to come.
And it comes just as Latino voters were awakening to the fact that President Obama is no friend of Hispanic voters regarding immigration. In short, he’s been a true hardliner. That’s right. President Obama’s policies when it comes to deportations have made the Republican presidents who came before him look like a cluster of pro-amnesty do-nothings. He’s already officially deported more than two million people, which is by most estimates more than President George W. Bush deported in his entire eight years in office.
[It's] a recurring problem for the Grand Ol’ Party — the need to broaden the base in order to improve the turnout during general elections continually conflicts with the reality of primaries.
But just as that narrative was starting to hit home for Hispanic voters, along comes a guy that no one’s ever heard of named Dave Brat and soundly defeats the Republican’s heir apparent to House Speaker John Boehner.
Brat attacked Cantor’s “open borders and pro-amnesty” policies with reckless abandon and it worked. Never mind that Cantor was neither pro-amnesty, nor for open borders.
What was Cantor actually for? He was quietly trying to head off Latino support of democrats nationwide by offering a competing idea on immigration. In fact, Cantor’s push to pass the “Enlist Act,” which would grant U.S. citizenship to “Dreamers” who enlist in the military, was so tepid even he was backing off of it.
But while Cantor was trying to position the GOP brand nationally, Tea Party candidate Brat was using it against him locally. His campaign, impressively grassroots, struck a nerve with a very small contingent of fired up conservative Virginians.
How small? As of this writing, the congressional race in Virginia has been called for Brat after receiving just 36,000 votes. In a country of 300 million, 36,000 people may have just charted the direction of the Republican Party. And that direction appears to be steadfastly on the side of anti-immigration reform.
And so it is with what has become a recurring problem for the Grand Ol’ Party — the need to broaden the base in order to improve the turnout during general elections continually conflicts with the reality of primaries. It’s a long-term strategy versus a short-term gain. It’s an established candidate like Cantor trying to re-establish the Republican brand by reaching a more diverse voter pool versus a local college professor with a grassroots following catching lightening in a jar with a single and arguably overheated issue like immigration.
As incongruous as it may sound, voters in the Republican primary in Virginia, who make up less than one half of one percent of the population of the United States, have just sent shivers down the backs of Republicans with a message that is loud and clear: “Hands off immigration reform, we don’t want it in any form.”
And ironically, while they’re at it, primary voters may also ask this: “Why can’t you guys be more like the other guy, like President Obama, you know, the one they call the 'deporter in chief?"