Pundits are likely to claim that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) loss to his Tea Party backed challenger David Brat was a resounding rejection of amnesty. It is no such thing. It is true that Brat conflated Cantor's acquiesce to piecemeal immigration reform (much of it different versions of enforcement) into support for amnesty. But Cantor's loss should not be read as a referendum on immigration.
Mainly, Cantor's loss should be attributed to an anti-establishment mentality among the electorate. (h/t Lina Newton who noted Cantor's win follows the pattern of other Tea Party wins i.e. longtime incumbent TKO'd by unknown, under-funded challenger.) One VA voter said: "There are some very angry people upset with the status quo, and Eric became part of that,” said former Representative Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican. “He was the only conduit they have to express their anger right now."
More evidence that the immigration issue alone did not cause Cantor's loss is Lindsay Graham's (R-SC) comfortable primary win. Graham has unabashedly and unswervingly backed comprehensive immigration reform as one of the bipartisan Gang of 8 Senators that managed to pass the Senate immigration bill last summer. He supports immigration reform in part because he does not believe the GOP's long term prospects are sustainable without it.
Who would have imagined that the immigration community would be ambivalent about Cantor's loss because it throws any immigration reform this year into serious doubt, with some already pronouncing the subject matter dead on arrival? I, for one, am more upset at what the Cantor loss says about the state of the polity. When someone like Eric Cantor can be considered an "establishment Republican" and not conservative enough, we're in for a rough ride.