Eric Cantor is a delicate little flower (whose intellectual guide is Ann Coulter)

To justify carrying water for the fringe right on immigration, GOP House leader whines that the president is mean

By Heather Digby Parton
Published April 18, 2014 11:44AM (EDT)
Eric Cantor               (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Eric Cantor (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

If you are curious as to whom the Republican leadership truly respects and listens to about the proper policies for the party to follow, the answer might surprise you. Certainly one would expect that they'd listen to their strategists and pollsters. And it's well known that they grant their donors the kind of fidelity one would normally only expect of 12th century knights of the realm. But if one is to judge by their approach to immigration, they are following the advice of the great oracle of wingnuttia, Ann Coulter.

Yesterday Democrats lamented the fact that the Senate immigration bill, passed over a year ago, still languishes in the House. The president made a mild comment suggesting that the American people are "ahead of the House Republicans" in this matter and would like to move ahead. He later called House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and they had a discussion of the issue after which Cantor released a pouty press release whining that the president is a big meanie:

Today, President Obama called me to discuss his desire for comprehensive immigration reform. The President called me hours after he issued a partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together. After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue. I told the President the same thing I told him the last time we spoke. House Republicans do not support Senate Democrats' immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House. I also reiterated to the President there are other issues where we can find common ground, build trust and get America working again. I hope the President can stop his partisan messaging, and begin to seriously work with Congress to address the issues facing working middle class Americans who are struggling to make ends meet in this economy.

It looks like somebody didn't get his nap.

This is standard operating procedure for Cantor's operation. Recall his self-serving tantrum over the first bank bailout when he tried to blame Nancy Pelosi's being rude for the GOP's inability to deliver the promised votes:

Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) held up a copy of Pelosi’s speech, saying, “Right here is the reason, I believe, why this vote failed, and this is Speaker Pelosi’s speech that, frankly, struck the tone of partisanship that, frankly, was inappropriate in this discussion.”

Poor Cantor. He bruises so easily. It's an enduring puzzle why someone with such delicate sensibilities chose a rough-and-tumble field like politics.

Of course his patented lugubrious tone is usually a cover for a very serious problem in his own caucus. And this one is huge. He is facing a group of strategists and donors who look at the trends and believe that if the Republican Party continues to insult racial and ethnic minorities with its patented degrading rhetoric, they are facing demographic armageddon:

Seeing as the white population includes quite a few liberals and moderates and the vast majority of non-whites logically aren't inclined to vote for a party full of racial demagogues, you'd think that the leading strategists of the party would be working overtime to pass immigration reform and make some attempts to reach out beyond their conservative white base. And frankly, that is the advice that's coming from many of them. But that's not who the congressional leadership is listening to. It would appear that they are listening to Ann Coulter, who has developed a bizarre theory about illegal immigration that comes at it from a direction that's very convenient for those who would rather not allow certain people to become citizens of this country:

Conservatives who ignore amnesty while carping about the debt ceiling, TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), the Internet tax bill or Benghazi are too stupid to help their country.

Suppose the Senate had passed a bill that would cut Texas out of the Union? Would that get your attention, fake tea partiers? Without Texas, Republicans would immediately lose 38 electoral votes, two senators and 24 members of Congress. (Democrats would lose only 12 House members.)

How would you rate the prospect of repealing Obamacare if Republicans could: never win another presidential election; never win another majority in the House; and never again win a Senate majority? Oh, and how does the expression "President Nancy Pelosi" grab you?

Would that bill be slightly more important to you than the Internet tax bill?

Well, guess what? Amnesty will produce the exact same result as losing the entire state of Texas. In fact, merely continuing our current immigration policies will achieve the same result; it will just take a little longer. (But wow, I'm sure glad we got "Octomom"! What a boon she's been to our American way of life.)

The population of Texas is about 27 million. With amnestied illegal aliens allowed to bring in their cousins and brothers-in-law under our insane "family reunification" policies, the 12 million illegal immigrants already here will quickly balloon to 30 million new voters -- who happen to break 8-to-2 for the Democrats.

Coulter's theory says that a path to citizenship is a device to allow Democrats to rig the vote in their favor and the only way that Republicans will be able to win in the future is by obstructing immigration reform, not helping to pass it. Clever, no? The fact that this perfectly plays into the right's long-standing prejudices is just icing on the très-leche cake.

She is adamant about the language Republicans are required to use to gain the confidence of their voters. When asked about "amnesty" these are among the things they cannot say  if they don't expect to be booted out of office in a primary:

-- "We already have de facto amnesty"

-- "What are you going to do -- round up 12 million illegals?"

-- "They're doing jobs American just won't do," or

-- "Our housekeeper, Lupe, is like family."

I'd be careful about endorsing mole sauce or guacamole too.

In that piece Coulter explicitly endorsed Cantor's opponent, Dave Brat, calling Cantor "amnesty addled" and a "maniacal amnesty supporter." And as the largest Spanish language newspaper in the U.S., La Opinión, observed, Cantor has changed his tune:

While Cantor seemed to be working in the KIDS Act bill for undocumented youth in 2013, he stayed away from the scarlet letter of the immigration debate: "amnesty." But now, eight months before the general election, he is back.

Do I think that Cantor is literally listening to Ann Coulter's advice on immigration reform? Who knows? But it's clear that he's not interested in pursuing the Senate bill at the moment and has gone back to the old style demagogic rhetoric on the issue. And that is very likely because the conservative movement's jungle drums, led by opportunistic "thought leaders" like Coulter, are sending a very strong message and he's hearing it loud and clear.

Cantor may say that his feelings are hurt due to the President's words about the American people being ahead of the House on this issue, but I'd guess it's actually the likes of Ann Coulter who have him cowering in the corner. Not that you can blame him. She really is scary.

Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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