The surprising defeat of the powerful Rep. Eric Cantor in Virginia’s primary election was an unexpected factor that makes it even less likely that there will be immigration reform in the House of Representatives.
Cantor’s tepid support for the cause of the Dreamers was the main target that his challenger Dave Brat exploited, incessantly accusing the lawmaker of wanting an “amnesty.” With that, the worst kind of electoral manipulation of immigration emerged triumphant.
The result of this race will be fresh in the minds of conservative lawmakers who at one time considered backing some sort of legalization for the undocumented.
Slightly more than 36,000 voters accepted the message of an unknown academic, that Cantor is not conservative enough, with immigration as an example. They defeated the Republican majority leader, who had 20 times more money, represented the conservative wing in the party’s leadership caucus and was the main contender to become House speaker.
The defeat in the primaries of a lawmaker of this stature will be a reminder of the power that the Tea Party can exercise.
This means that the most conservative positions in the House of Representatives will strengthen, especially with the November midterm election coming up. Comprehensive immigration reform will be one of several victims in the legislature.
Brat’s victory changes what has been written so far about how the Republican establishment has successfully responded to Tea Party challengers.
Populists hit the Republicans where it hurts most, at the top of the legislature, which will make the already disrupted House even more divisive. They also hit Latinos where it hurts most: they successfully debased the immigration debate.