Did latent Republican racism sound the death knell for Cantor?

As primary Election Day drew to a close and his defeat was all but certain, I am sure that Republican Eric Cantor (Va.), a staunch conservative, Obama obstructionist and until this week, House majority leader, had to ask himself how he could fall so far out of favor with the very Tea Party that he had catered to over the past four years, losing to a relatively politically unknown and Tea Party-backed college professor named Dave Brat.

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At the height of his power, Cantor, to the delight of the conservative talk radio triumvirate of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, repeatedly — and reportedly rudely — interrupted President Obama during tense negotiations on the debt ceiling and entitlement reform. Such breach of protocol and rank disrespect to the commander-in-chief was sure to come, what with Republican Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.) screaming "You lie!" at the president during one State of the Union address, and with conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthing "that's not true" following an Obama point during another.

But unlike the usual assortment of Republican drones — the ones who charge the proverbial political hills while following the dictates of the party brass and their talk radio propaganda ministry like they are members of the Light Brigade — Cantor, along with fellow Republican Congressman and former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (Wis.), has been repeatedly lauded as being among the vanguard of the conservative Republican brain trust. From attempts to block Obama judicial nominees, to the seemingly endless sequester and fiscal cliff debates over the past few years, even to the Affordable Care Act, Cantor was one of the leading architects behind Republican attempts to fulfill Limbaugh’s prayer in 2009 that Obama "fails."

To that end, Cantor was no "RINO," the pejorative acronym that means "Republican in Name Only" that during my peregrination from a charter member of the Morehouse College Republicans in 1992 to my decision to leave the party and register as an independent earlier this year, was used against me by party members who felt that my moderate politics was more akin to being a "Democrat lite." To many Tea Party members, the fact that I was a pro-life, gun-rights supporting, Big Government-fearing, American Exceptionalism-believing Republican was negated by my advocacy of affordable health care for all and my life's experiences that inform my opinion that racism is far from dead in the public square.

Cantor, on the contrary, until recently was in lock step with the conservative right on each of those aforementioned issues save one — his attempts to even consider working with Democrats and Obama on immigration reform. Indeed, in a Slate article the day after his loss, the results of two polls of Republican primary voters in Cantor's district revealed that well over 60 percent supported "halting illegal immigration," while twice as many Republicans in his district supported more deportations of illegals currently here than the national average.

This leads me to conclude that just as I predicted earlier this year upon leaving the Republican Party, that the fears of the "browning" of America, one in which Latinos will very likely dominate every aspect of American society before this century draws to a close, has some Republicans seeking methods to limit this reality. I am reminded of this whenever I hear a Republican or conservative pundit waxing nostalgic about a return to 1950s era America, the one in which ethnic minorities were segregated and invisible as far as serving in positions of social, business or political prominence. Not that many on the right will ever boldly articulate such as being their specific goal, but to those who see through the banal rhetoric that lauds the black slave family unit, reduces "urban" issues such as crime and punishment, education and healthcare lags, and unemployment among minorities as a "lack of personal responsibility" or building an "electric fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border, we realize that race not only matters, but is at the center of policy and ideological disputes.

For that reason, the political battle axe not only severed Cantor's political head, but it is pretty obvious that perhaps the best conservative challenger to Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), will likely stall out of the primary gates in 2016 because his intelligent and reasonable approach to immigration reform simply does not resonate with the extreme-right base. Which is curious when considering that the reddest border states and Florida are dependent upon the labor and job skills that so-called "illegals" provide to make capitalism work and more crucially, workers who fill state coffers through tax revenue derived from the purchases of goods and services.

Hobbs is a trial lawyer and political columnist based in Tallahassee, Fla., who was nominated by the Tallahassee Democrat for a Pulitzer Prize in Commentary in 2011 and who won the Florida Bar Media Award in 2010. His columns also appear on his website, www.talkinggenerationnext.com and at Tallahassee.com. His Twitter handle is @RealChuckHobbs.