Win not so big after all
Eric Cantor’s Virginia primary election defeat by college professor David Brat has created a sizable shift in the federal political scene and one big loser may well be immigration legislation.
For the past 30 years the U.S. has experienced problems with immigrants crossing our southern borders and attempting to remain illegally in the U.S. Many came to America with small children who have now lived most of their lives as Americans, illegal but life-long residents.
But solutions have been elusive to the resolution of illegal Immigrants.
There has been a serious and expensive effort to better control the southern U.S. borders. Today there are more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents, double the number assigned as recently as 2004. And 652 miles of fence, all that has been approved by Congress to date, has been completed on the 2,000 mile long American-Mexican border. Technology investments have also helped secure the border.
But border crossings continue as a problem in spite of the continued investments made. Successfully sealing the borders has resisted the efforts of both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Polling of Americans on immigration this week by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute indicates that a majority of Americans believe a path to citizenship for these immigrants is the most acceptable outcome for those now living in America. In results almost identical to polling in March 2013, 70 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Independents and 51 percent of Republicans approve of a path to citizenship.
Significantly however, many more Republicans favor identification and expulsion of these illegals, 30 percent, than Democrats, 11 percent. 40 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters favor expulsion.
Eric Cantor was viewed by the White House as an obstructionist to immigration reform this year in Congress, but Representative elective Brat attacked Cantor for favoring some exceptions to expulsion for children raised in America, and Virginia primary voters seems to respond to that criticism by favoring Brat.
The ripple effect of this election, the first ever loss of a House Majority Leader in office, may push the already reluctant Republicans to step away from any immigration reform for not only this year, but the balance of the Obama presidency.
This potential denial of resolution of our immigration policies may have even greater impact in the 2106 presidential elections as the largest growing voter bloc is American Hispanics. Hispanics voted 70 percent for the Democratic presidential candidate Obama in 2012 and will likely vote their displeasure with Republican immigration policies in even larger numbers in 2016. This will make it exceedingly difficult for the Republican nominee to win the 2016 presidential election.
And for Republican candidates in the 2016 primaries they may find it necessary to deny immigration solutions favored by the general public in order to win their increasingly right wing primary voters support. This may grant them a primary victory but an election problem by standing against public views on immigration.
More troubling still, such choices might solidify Hispanic voters within the Democratic Party for generations, joining other minorities and further isolating the Republican Party as limited mostly to white, Southern, and rural voters. This demographic, if left unchanged, will minimize the Republican appeal to voters to a degree that not even district gerrymandering and voter restrictions can offset.
All in all, congratulations are in order for Mr. Brat for his surprising victory in the Virginia primary. It was no mean feat.
This is a big win for the Tea Party. For America, maybe not so much.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.