In 2007, John McCain’s “comprehensive” immigrant-legalization bill failed after opponents flooded the Senate with calls, shutting down the switchboard. Despite considerable press hype, the bill didn’t even muster a majority on the crucial cloture vote.
It won’t be that easy this time. For one thing, they have a better switchboard, I’m told. For another, the Republican consultants–e.g. Gillespie, Rove–who helped Mitt Romney lose the 2012 election have taken their own failure as an excuse to push what they’ve wanted all along–a business-pleasing immigration policy guaranteeing a supply of inexpensive labor from abroad and a stream of campaign donations to pay Republican consultants. It beats rethinking the rest of the GOP agenda.
In fact, despite all the talk of polarization and Citizens United, the big money in the immigration fight almost unanimously favors a bipartisan, legalization-first bill. Kochs included. The GOP donor class is asserting itself, Ross Douthat has noted. It’s spotted what it thinks is an intersection of crude self-interest, high-minded tolerance, partisan strategy and libertarian philosophy.
One of the more influential members of this “donorist” class is Rupert Murdoch, which means that FOX News has for all intents and purposes switched sides, giving immigration “comprehensivists” a monopoly in the MSM–five networks to none. As goes Murdoch, so goes Hannity.
If you are a Republican who worries that a flood of low-skilled immigrants would drive down wages and make America an uglier place, where the rich have cheap servants but even diligent unskilled work doesn’t afford a life of dignity–well, we’re sorry. We’ve booked our Republican for the panel this week–Senator McCain! A member of the famous Gang of 8! He always puts on a good show, don’t you agree? (If you are a Democrat who worries about immigration and low wages, you probably don’t exist, and certainly don’t hold elective office. In 2007, populist Dems like Senator Byron Dorgan still walked the halls. Now they’ve been driven out–or underground–by the lure of ethnic identity politics).
Worst of all are distractions that weren’t around in 2007. Probably through sheer bad luck, a series of dramatic scandals has captured the attention of both the press (which would ordinarily be celebrating the Gang of Eight’s epic achievement) and conservatives, who would ordinarily be kicking up a fuss. The distraction factor applies with special force to right-wing talk radio hosts, who instead of mobilizing opposition are pontificating in a daze of either overconfidence (i.e., ‘Democrats want this bill to fail’) or fatalism.You’d think Rush Limbaugh–a rare non-Fox conservative star, who understands what is at stake— might have a good deal of time to spend on the Gang of 8 bill the day before its first test vote in the Senate. You would be wrong. Rush talked mainly about the NSA.
If the conservative public were paying attention, the flaws and crude deceptions of the Schumer-Rubio bill would be common knowledge. They are so obvious, especially in the border enforcement area, that even Sen. Rubio pretends to be dissatisfied with his own bill. Byron York reports that many conservatives are shocked when they learn that Rubio’s bill doesn’t secure the border before legalization. It doesn’t! “First comes the legalization,” as Rubio boasted yesterday. That’s been obvious for months, but now it’s news. (The border security requirements, themselves evanescent, would only prevent legalized illegals from moving to upgrade from legal status to getting green cards and citizenship.)
It’s time to wake up! Conservatives–while you are (rightly) excited about NSA snooping and partisan IRS corruption, the Congress is about to change America in a more profound, permanent way right under your noses. In the process it will hand President Obama the major second term achievement that will help him overcome the very scandals that are distracting you–or, rather, make his survival or re-ascendance unimportant. He will have won. Democrats will have shaped the future electorate to their own liking. They’ll have transformed what America is.
Please forget about Benghazi and Cincinnati and Edward Snowden’s girlfriend for a minute and pay attention to the main event.
You have one weapon in your arsenal that can trump the big money behind the Gang of 8 bill (S.744). That weapon is fear. It’s not as if the Republican elite has suddenly been persuaded that an amnesty-first immigration bill is a good idea, after all. They’ve always preferred amnesty. They were just too scared to pursue it. What stopped them was the prospect of swift retribution from the electorate, not limited to the Republican primary electorate.
This fear hasn’t disappeared. The elites were scared of voters before and they can be scared again. This applies to red state Democrats like Mark Pryor and primary-able Republicans like Lisa Murkowski. It applies to fence-sitters like Lamar Alexander. It even applies to those like Kelly Ayotte who have now committed to supporting instant legalization (despite having campaigned against it). If voters now make their displeasure with Ayotte known–well, politicians at the top have a way of backtracking from unpopular stands. That’s how they got to the top. At the very least Ayotte’s difficulties would serve as a cautionary example to others.
There will probably be several big votes–most likely on a House-Senate conference bill–before any amnesty can become law. Speaker Boehner will have to make a crucial decision on whether to break the “Hastert Rule” and try to pass a bill in the teeth of his own caucus’ strongly held views. In every case, fear will be the crucial factor. If Senators fear losing their office if a bill becoming law–and they tend to be highly risk-aware–it often has a way of dying without any fingerprints on it (which is arguably what happened in 2007).
Ignore the f—ing scandals for a few days and save the country from Chuck Schumer.