Well, soon-to-be-former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, you’re right. There are problems within the Republican Party. The question is, what are you going to do about those problems?
Your words in response to trash-talk radio star Laura Ingraham’s attacks on you were rather interesting:
But I will say that the suggestion that I should have been traded to the Taliban for Sergeant Bergdahl really is not a serious contribution to any public policy debate. Frankly, I don’t think that it reflects on the people who self-identify as tea partiers. I think they reject that kind of nation. And frankly it cheapens the debate.
The problem is, Ingraham and her talk-radio colleagues have been cheapening the debate in the United States for decades, as E. J. Dionne Jr. noted in the fall of 2008:
For years, many of the elite conservatives were happy to harvest the votes of devout Christians and gun owners by waging a phony class war against “liberal elitists” and “leftist intellectuals.” Suddenly, the conservative writers are discovering that the very anti-intellectualism their side courted and encouraged has begun to consume their movement.
The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity — and Sarah Palin. Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans, learned manifestoes by direct-mail hit pieces.
Rep. Cantor, if you continue to call out the depravity of the discourse on right-wing talk radio, we will know you’re serious about fixing the problems. If you don’t, we will know you’re not.
You insisted that we still need some sort of immigration reform, but you fell short of calling out anti-immigrant nativism in the GOP:
“My position never wavered,” he said on ABC. “I have always taken the position that I’m not for a comprehensive amnesty bill. I have always said that we ought to deal with the kids who did not break any laws and themselves came into this country, in many cases, unbeknownst to them.”
“Did that infuriate folks on both sides?” he asked. “Sure. But it is the principled position.”
Senator Lindsey Graham did a better job of criticizing GOP nativism this morning on Face the Nation:
Number one, I don’t think Eric got beat because of his stand on immigration. I think he got beat because of his lack of defining himself on immigration. I told the Republican Party at home that we’re doing well because the Democrats are doing poorly. This ultra-liberal agenda of President Obama has blown up in their face. We’re going to win in 2014. Conservative values will connect with Hispanics and African-Americans, but don’t be delusional about where we stand. If we become the party of self-deportation, if that again is our position in 2016, we’re going to drive a deeper wedge between us and Hispanics. [If you have] a pathway to citizenship after you secure the border, control who gets the jobs, more legal immigration where they have to pass a criminal background check, learn the English language, wait ten years before you can apply for a green card, [that] is sixty-five percent accepted in the state of South Carolina. Republicans nationally will accept an earned pathway to citizenship if you secure the border. For our party to let the thirty-five-percent tell us how to engage with immigration, we will [ultimately] lose a natural ally in the Hispanic community. Bush was at forty-four [percent support with Latino voters]; we’re down to twenty-seven. You’ll never convince me it’s not because of the rhetoric around immigration. If you solve the immigration problem in a good American responsible way, our party is back in the game and we can dominate the twenty-first century. If we keep playing this game, that self-deportation is the only answer for the Republican Party, we will have destroyed our chances in 2016 and dealt a death blow to our party, because by 2050, a majority of this country is going to be African-American, Hispanic, and Asian. Conservatism is the best hope for African-American children in failing schools. Conservatism aligns with Hispanics, they’re hard working, they’re entrepreneurial, they’re pro-life, they’re pro-military. It will break my heart for my party to go down a road that we need not go. Embrace rational, comprehensive immigration reform that prevents a third wave of illegal immigration and we’re back in the ballgame. If we don’t adjust on this issue, our chances for survival as a party are very bleak and the country needs a vibrant Republican Party and our Democratic friends have put us back in the game. Let’s take advantage of it.
Rep. Cantor, if you truly stand up to the haters in your party and denounce what Colin Powell once referred to as the “dark vein of intolerance” in the GOP, we will know you’re serious about fixing the problems. If you don’t, we will know you’re not.
Then, we have the issue of religion, one CNN’s Dana Bash bravely raised this morning, and one that Cantor unfortunately deflected:
Of course, the problem is, as HBO’s Bill Maher noted on June 13, Cantor’s loss officially brands the GOP as a Christian-only party:
Rep. Cantor, if you apologize for ducking the religious elephant in the room in your discussion with Dana Bash, and declare that your party should be open to people of any (or no) religion, we will know you’re serious about fixing the problems. If you don’t, we will know you’re not.
The choice is yours, Rep. Cantor. Are you serious about confronting the GOP’s problems? Or just delirious?