Eric Cantor, Republican majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, is only 51 years old, and had a bright political future as speaker-in-waiting. As No. 2 GOP leader in the House, and a Wall Street favorite, he was able to raise $5.7 million for his re-election campaign for an 8th term as representative from Virginia’s 7th congressional district. He won all his previous elections by large victory margins, the smallest of which in 2012 was 17%.
But he was upset in Tuesday’s primary election by Dave Brat, 49, a college professor who was only able to raise $231,000 for a challenge to Eric Cantor which no one, no one, expected him to win. Brat’s margin of victory over Cantor was 11%, which was significant and not close.
Many explanations are offered for the big upset, and there were indeed many contributing factors. But the undeniable no. 1 reason for Brat’s upset of Cantor was immigration policy, and specifically Cantor’s willingness to support so-called “immigration reform” that included amnesty for illegal aliens.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, Brat “primarily sought to cast himself as more conservative than Mr. Cantor on immigration policy…. In his campaign, Mr. Brat had worked to distinguish his stance on an immigration overhaul from that of Mr. Cantor.” Brat stated, “I’m against amnesty of any sort, granting citizenship to those who’ve broken the law.” The website Politico.com called immigration, “the central animating issue of Cantor challenger Dave Brat’s campaign.”
Democrats deliberately or obliviously ignore the impact of legal and illegal immigration on unemployment, underemployment, and stagnant wages in America. They wonder why all remain unchanged despite record stock market highs. They wonder why there are not enough jobs for young Americans entering the labor market for the first time and why long-term unemployment continues. They wonder why wages aren’t rising as economic theory says they should in a recovering and expanding economy.
The best hope for Republicans to transform themselves into a majority party is to embrace populist concern for jobs and wages of working Americans, which every poll shows is the number 1 issue for American voters. Republicans must stop being acolytes for the richest 1%, who actively support expanding the legal labor pool through amnesty and increased immigration to keep wage levels down, and focus instead on the economic concerns of Main Street.
Americans will support legal immigration as long as the legal limits on immigration are strictly enforced. Americans understand that unlimited immigration adversely affects American jobs and wages, as well as the environment and quality of life.
That’s the significance of Dave Brat’s defeat of Eric Cantor, hope for the Republican party and hope for America.