So Boehner’s on his way out, and the media are talking about House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as if he were the semi-official heir apparent to the Speakership, our own Prince of Wales if you will.
I’m not laying any bets.
Out here in California we know McCarthy. He comes from the very conservative district that includes Bakersfield — think ranchers and oil men. His legislative record isn’t the kind that would make him any enemies, the two laws he’s managed to get passed in his five terms in Congress each did nothing more than put the name of a dead Republican on a government building. He’s popular in the district among Republicans and there are a lot of them in that part of our deep blue state.
There are also a lot of Chicanos, and Mexicans, documented and un-.
Hispano-Americans in California don’t vote for Republicans. Ex-Gov Pete Wilson made sure of that 20 years ago with his political assault on the immigrant community. It’s why the GOP in the state that gave the country Nixon and Reagan is now only a little more relevant than the Whigs.
The Latino population in McCarthy’s district has nothing to do with his electoral base, but to his donor base they matter a lot. Exploiting cheap immigrant labor, legal or otherwise, is one of the keys to profitability for Big Agriculture, and Kevin McCarthy is the congressman from Big Ag. The interests of his district are strongly tied to effective comprehensive immigration reform, especially if it guarantees industrial farmers a stable low-cost pool of workers. If McCarthy wants to keep getting re-elected, he needs to take care of his homies.
Now if you haven’t already sensed the mood of the national GOP base around the question of immigration reform, just check out some video from a Donald Trump rally, the recent one in Dallas is a good example. They love the three-point plan — build a big wall, throw all the Mexicans over it, throw all their American kids over it with them.
This anti-immigrant core of the base are represented in Washington by the insurgent rump that just took John Boehner’s scalp. A gang of little Louie Gohmerts aren’t going to look any more kindly on a Speaker with a center-right stance on immigration than they did on the one who wouldn’t take the government down to prevent women from getting low-cost basic and reproductive health care.
At some point, at least a couple of these bozos are going to realize who Kevin McCarthy represents. And if that happens before the leadership vote, chances are they’ll be looking for someone a little more pure.