What the Republican Establishment Needs to Take Away From Eric Cantor’s Loss


1. Most if not all of the analyses of outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss have overlooked that the major issue where Eric Cantor stands in opposition to his party’s voters is the only issue where the establishment wing of the GOP seems to be really trying to get something passed in Congress. GOP leaders might talk about repealing Obamacare, but no one believes it’s going to happen; they’ll insist that the big education reform battles being fought right now aren’t a Federal issue, etc. Amnesty for illegal immigrants is the one issue before Congress where both houses of Congress could in the near-term pass something significant that the President signs into law, and many GOP voters are aware of this.

2. GOP voters are much less likely than Democratic party voters (or Democratic party elites, for that matter) to reject economics. GOP voters understand — just like establishment GOP Chamber-of-Commerce types do — that amnesty will drive down wages. The difference, of course, is that GOP Chamber-of-Commerce types tend to think this is good thing, while GOP voters tend to not.

This message was a large part of primary winner Dave Brat’s campaign

We all know the basic economics. Labor markets are still in chaos, and now our leadership wants to import more low wage labor, lower the wage rate for our citizens, and provide BIG business cronies with cheap labor.

The Elites get cheap labor and you get low wages, more unemployment and to pay all the taxes that will support the Ruling Class in DC.

3. The two points above are the connection to the point made by some analysts, that Brat’s victory over Cantor was a rebuke of GOP Congressional leadership in general. In other words, GOP voters don’t think an intra-coalition deal, where the establishment gets amnesty and lower wages for everyone, while in return the rest of the GOP gets to listen to the establishment elite posture ineffectively on other issues but never actually achieve anything, is a good trade. They’re ready for leadership who’ll offer something better.

4. In broadest-brush strokes, if Wall Street/Chamber of Commerce types are interested in helping to build a stronger Republican party at the national level, their path forward is this: They need invest some energy into one or two issues other than amnesty, favorable to GOP voters, and show some measurable legislative progress on them.  Doubling-down on amnesty, trying to claim that it is the only issue that government has the capacity for, isn’t going to work.

5. The GOP establishment also needs to accept that they cannot market their way to an amnesty that will be popular with GOP voters. GOP voters have not been fooled by the attempts of the last few years to pretend that everyone already agrees that amnesty is a given, by shifting the public debate to “should there or shouldn’t there be a pathway to citizenship”. And while the GOP consultant class may envy the ease with which their Democratic counterparts can get their base to reject economics, that’s not an option for the GOP elite. GOP voters realize that calling an amnesty “provisional legalization” or by some other name doesn’t alter economic realities (see point 2 above).

But if immigration hawks like Mark Krikorian can accept that an amnesty would be a reasonable step that follows actual enforcement…

The basic outline would be this: enforcement first, without preconditions or trade-offs, but targeted mainly at the prevention of new illegal immigration. Once that’s fully in place, we can move on to the grand bargain: amnesty for remaining long-established, non-violent illegals in exchange for an end to mass legal immigration.

Once [an enforcement agenda] has been completed, which is likely to take several years, amnesty would be a risk worth taking. And the combination of a new enforcement paradigm plus reduced legal immigration would address many (though not all) of the potential problems with it.

…then it stands to reason that there are many GOP voters who can be persuaded as well — if they believe that the interests of their representatives in government extend beyond implementing amnesty.

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