Lessons the Next House Speaker Should Learn from Brat’s Win

Published on June 18th, 2014

By Joe Guzzardi
June 18, 2014

Political neophyte David Brat’s upset defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s has set off House chaos. Republicans, tormented by immigration, don’t know which way to turn. Cantor favored more immigration, specifically giving legal status to immigrants who allegedly came to the U.S. as youths with their parents. But Brat countered persuasively that more immigration hurts American workers and depresses their wages.

The first matter of post-election business is the House vote to determine Cantor’s successor. Although he’ll serve out his term, Cantor immediately resigned his speaker’s position.

Front running candidates Kevin McCarthy, currently the House Whip and third ranking Republican and Raul Labrador are, like Cantor, pro-immigration. Earlier this year McCarthy, whose Bakersfield, CA. district is heavily Hispanic, endorsed amnesty. Labrador, a former immigration lawyer who represents western Idaho, has consistently promoted issuing more overseas worker visas, insisting that they would help boost the economy.

McCarthy and Labrador are doubtlessly under Chamber of Commerce President and cheap labor-addicted Tom Donohue’s influence. Since the Senate passed its massive immigration bill a year ago, Donohue has intensely lobbied the House to take action. Without an all inclusive immigration bill, Donohue dishonestly claims that Republicans shouldn’t bother to put up a 2016 presidential candidate, so remote would the GOP’s chances be without the Latino vote. 

The flaw in Donohue’s urging that only Hispanic outreach via amnesty will save the GOP from self-destructing is that not a shred of evidence exists to support their thesis. Since 1986 when the Republican-controlled Senate passed President Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act, Latino voters have by large margins voted for the Democrat.

In the 1988 midterm elections, when the newly enacted IRCA should have generated maximum enthusiasm for Reagan Republicans among Hispanics, the GOP’s electoral share was smaller than in 1984—before amnesty

Two years later, George W. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990 that increased immigration by 40 percent. Bush’s reward: his Latino vote share dropped to 25 percent.

More recently, Arizona Senator John McCain who during his twenty-five year congressional career endorsed every piece of legislation that promoted Hispanic causes, failed dismally against his then untested, unknown Senate colleague, Barack Obama. Despite his decades of amnesty advocacy, McCain could only garner 31 percent of Latino voters. 

The explanation for why Latinos don’t reward even the most supportive-of-amnesty Republicans is painfully simple. On the whole, immigration isn’t important to Hispanics. A 2013 Pew Research Poll found that only 32 percent considered immigration “extremely important,” well below jobs and health care.

While a majority of Hispanics don’t consider immigration critical—and they’re right not to since it means more people competing for jobs in a shrinking labor market—amnesty is important to the elite which the aforementioned Chamber and big business types like Mark Zuckerberg manifested this spring.

As for the so called crucial Hispanic vote, that doesn’t stand up under scrutiny, either. Exit polling conducted after the 2012 presidential election found that even if Mitt Romney had won the Hispanic vote in several swing states, he still would have lost those states.

The lesson for McCarthy and Labrador is that, as Brat demonstrated, sensible immigration levels which work in Americans’ best interests is a winning platform.

From a strictly political view point, what’s most important to the GOP is winning elections. Brat developed the template for success: frame immigration as a jobs issue, which will also resonate with Hispanic Americans, and expose incumbents as shamelessly in elitists’ back pockets. 


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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