David Brat’s Republican primary defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.) was widely attributed to a groundswell of right-wing anti-immigrant fervor, despite the fact that Cantor had taken the lead in blocking immigration reform, and despite the fact that their congressional district is strongly for immigration.
Meanwhile, the media ignored the immigration triumphs in the Republican primary season: the easy victory for Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who actually voted for the bipartisan Senate bill, and for Rep. Renee Ellmers (N.C.), who called a nationally syndicated conservative talk show host “ignorant” for her refusal to support any immigration reform.
Yesterday we had a third triumph ignored by the media: Rep. Fred Upton’s huge primary victory in Michigan, just four days after joining 10 other Republicans in refusing to overturn the President’s executive order that has indefinitely deferred deportations for undocumented immigrants who came to America as children, sometimes called “DREAMers.”
Immediately after the vote, Upton’s Tea Party opponent, Jim Bussler, excoriated him on Facebook: “Last night we were all told by Upton’s spokesman that he couldn’t make it to the Pitchfork Fondue because he was busy protecting us from illegal immigration, as it turns out HE WAS VOTING AGAINST OUR ABILITY TO PROTECT OUR NATION. The constant deception is tiring. He voted NO on HR 5272.”
This wasn’t Upton’s first indication of support for DREAMers. Back in January, during an online chat with Kalamazoo Gazette readers, he responded to a question about his immigration position by saying, “Next week [Republicans] are going on an issues retreat and immigration will be a front burner issue. I expect us to agree on a number of principles that [we] will then couple to legislative issues regarding border security, H1B visas, Ag workers, Dreamers (these are the very young that came years ago with their parents), and perhaps a few more–In other words, smaller issues and not a huge comprehensive 1,500 page bill or so. I have made this a priority for me to help organize a bi-partisan coalition to get these passed hopefully starting by the end of February.”
Yet Upton’s vote and Bussler’s charge failed to rile the Republican base, as Upton coasted to victory Tuesday with 71 percent of the vote.
The story of the 2014 Republican primaries is the failure of the Tea Party to punish Republicans who show openness to immigration reform. Unfortunately it’s a story that hasn’t been told.