Eric Cantor is out. This stunning development has provoked post-mortem pundits into focusing on Cantor’s acceptance of “amnesty” for undocumented aliens as a big factor in his defeat. After all, the most conservative elements in the Republican Party are deeply hostile to people who speak Spanish and who come into the U.S. without proper documentation.
There are a number of reasons for this hostility. First of all, undocumented immigrants break the law. Of course Cliven Bundy, the lovable bigot who kept cattle illegally on public land, also broke the law, but he is a Republican hero. His case is very different from that of undocumented aliens though, because he is a white guy. Also, he seems to have an intense love for firearms. White racist in a cowboy hat clutching a rifle with belligerent determination – GOP logo, anyone?
Conservative hostility to undocumented aliens is based on a solid foundation of justifications including their inherent, siesta-prone laziness, their willingness to work hard for lower wages than Anglo-Americans, and their non-whiteness.
A number of Republicans in the past actually tried to cobble together compromises that would facilitate the inclusion of immigrants into the American mainstream, but these were all rejected. For example, when Texas Governor Rick Perry said it should be possible for immigrant children to attend Texas universities like normal people, he ran into a firestorm of Tea Party rage. One helpful citizen suggested that a reasonable compromise might be to let the immigrant students graduate but then give Tea Party activists an opportunity to beat them up as they received their diplomas, but this idea failed to gain traction.
In spite of all the political resistance to Eric Cantor’s “soft-on-immigrant” positions, my Washington sources* suggest that he may have been doomed not by the immigration issue, but by the “A Factor.” He may have simply been too much of an Asshole.
To quote Time Magazine, “it may prove that Cantor’s problem was less ideology and more a sense that he stood more for his own ambition than for any definable policies.”
New York Magazine quotes Dave “Mudcat” Saunders as saying Cantor is someone whose constituent services suck and who rarely visits his own district except when surrounded by a huge security entourage. Mudcat is obviously a Democrat, since few Republicans would tolerate a nickname like Mudcat. But even Cantor’s fellow Republicans deem him something of an Asshole.
Again with New York Magazine:
“And yet for all the loyalty many GOP congressmen feel toward Cantor, he is surprisingly [sic!] unloved. Even his admirers say he lacks the social ease and natural confidence of most politicians…”
According to one observer, the typical Washington legislator has a douche-ometer reading of 6.2, while Cantor’s number clocks in at a whopping 9.8.**
Perhaps the Republican House member who likes Cantor the least is Speaker John Boehner, and frankly, I would like to have seen Boehner’s face when Cantor’s defeat was announced. How difficult, I wonder, will it be for Boehner to suppress an orangy grin as he publicly expresses his sympathy for his fallen comrade-in-arms?
At any rate, I believe that Cantor’s real problem was not merely that he was inadequately hostile to Hispanic immigrants. I think he was ultimately brought down by the A factor.
*I do actually have at least one Washington source.
**I am that observer.