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Greg Sargent: Jeb Bush, Eric Cantor, and the GOP’s Future

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Yesterday, Eric Cantor made headlines by slamming President Obama for his supposed lack of sincerity in working with Republicans to pass immigration reform.  But as Greg Sargent explains in a post this morning, Cantor is currently under particular pressure to appear tough on immigration, after Tea Partiers have begun crying foul on his support for Jeff Denham’s ENLIST Act.

This is significant because the ENLIST Act is so minor — by its opponents’ admission, it would affect a few hundred or few thousand immigrants at best.  Yet Cantor has come under fire for supporting it, just as Jeb Bush has come under fire for merely suggesting that immigrants be thought of humanely.  It’s more evidence that the House GOP has somehow, remarkably, become even more right-wing on immigration than Mitt Romney was, which doesn’t bode well for them coming to a point where they can pass immigration reform in time to help themselves in 2016.  As long as votes to deport DREAMers are all they have to show, Republicans are not helping themselves win back the White House.

Greg Sargent has more.  Read his explanation below or in full here.

Short version: Jeb Bush called on Republicans to find a way to accept integration of the 11 million into American society as a morally tolerable and practically desirable outcome. Cantor declared, in effect, that this isn’t going to happen, because #Obummer.

Cantor, responding to Obama’s accusation that House Republicans had failed to move on reform, insisted the president will not railroad them into passing the Senate bill. As conservative news outlets were quick to point out, Cantor had a reason for this: He is under fire from the right for pushing legislation that would legalize just the DREAMers. Seen this way, Cantor’s move was about deflecting scrutiny from conservatives by appearing to take a tough posture with Obama for trying to shove amnesty down Republicans’ throats.

Cantor has gotten attention for wanting to soften the GOP’s image and make the party look more tolerant, an effort that includes this push for a vote on the DREAMers. But what that push really shows is how limited efforts to make the GOP appear more inclusive really are. Only legalizing the DREAMers falls dramatically short of addressing the 11 million, yet even this gets Cantor hit from the right.

Remember, Republican leaders themselves have declared that some form of legalization for the 11 million will be a necessary component of any reform overhaul. Last summer, John Boehner insisted “the vast majority” of GOPers agree we must wrestle with how to legalize the 11 million. The recently-released GOP reformprinciples declare legalization, under certain conditions, as a primary goal. Yet House Republicans have produced no formal proposal that would achieve that goal — their own stated goal — under circumstances they themselves can support. Only they can resolve whether there exists any set of conditions under which enough House Republicans can support that goal. Until then, the de facto GOP stance is either the status quo (the 11 million remain in shadows of illegality) or deportation.

The real meaning of Jeb Bush’s comments is that he asked Republicans to get to a place — through an appreciation of the moral ambiguity of the plight of many of the 11 million, and a recognition that they have something to contribute to our country – where this is no longer the de facto GOP position. (As E.J. Dionne points out, Bush was asking Republicans to accept an “increasingly diverse nation as an asset.”) Cantor’s outburst is pure deflection — it entirely elides the basic dilemma Republicans face, claiming the problem is simply that Republicans can’t accept the solution Obamais championing. The actual problem is that as of now, there isn’t any solution to the problem — as Republicans themselves have defined it — that is acceptable to them. In other words, they just aren’t ready to cross the Rubicon Jeb Bush asked them to.