We’re going to be talking about immigration, so I thought I’d begin by looking backward:
President Bush’s effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration policy, a cornerstone of his domestic agenda, collapsed in the Senate today, with little hope that it can be revived before Mr. Bush leaves office in January 2009.The bill called for the biggest changes to immigration law in more than 20 years, offering legal status to millions of illegal immigrants while trying to secure the nation’s borders. But the Senate, forming blocs that defied party affiliation, could never unite on the legislation’s key provisions. Rejecting the president’s last-minute pleas, it voted 53 to 46 to turn back a motion to end debate and move toward final passage. Supporters fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to close debate.
Mr. Bush placed telephone calls to lawmakers throughout the morning, but members of his party abandoned him in droves, with only 12 of the 49 Senate Republicans sticking by him on the key procedural vote that determined the bill’s fate.
The outcome also underscored the challenge that Mr. Bush faces in exerting authority and enacting an agenda at a time when members of his own party increasingly break with him and the Democrats no longer fear him. Having already given up on other ambitious second-term plans like overhauling Social Security, the White House has little prospect of winning any big new legislative achievements in the final 19 months of Mr. Bush’s tenure.
I followed the last immigration debate, and the politics were interesting. Obviously, Bush and Rove understood that alienating and enraging a voting bloc was stupid and short-sighted, but the activist conservative base ignored them and killed the bill.
This was brought home to me locally during that period, because LOCAL Republicans were convinced that a rabid, spit-flecked “NO!” response to all things immigration was a sure-fire political winner for them. I live in a conservative area and a good part of my local political gossiping includes dire warnings from conservatives that I (personally, I guess) have awakened either a silent majority or a sleeping giant. I heard the “you have awakened a sleeping giant!” warning often on immigration in that period. They truly believed that the GOP stance on immigration was a political plus, and Democrats would be punished for Kennedy and others even suggesting a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. They believed that the GOP anti-immigrant stance would help them in the 2006 midterms. It was the first time I really understood how completely captured Republicans were by their base and their media echo chamber.
I wonder how they plan on controlling the base this time out. Will the argument they’re making, where Republicans have to do a complete reversal on immigration for political purposes, fly with the base? Are they trying to come up with a new word to replace “amnesty” as I write this?
“I’ll give you a little straight talk,” McCain said on ABC’s “This Week” when asked how Republicans could be convinced to include a path to citizenship in a reform package. “Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that.”
Recall that conservative leaders were making shit up about headless bodies in the desert as recently as 2010, so this is a fairly dramatic turn-around:
The Arizona governor, seemingly determined to repel every last tourist dollar from her pariah state, has sounded a new alarm about border violence. “Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded,” she announced on local television.
Ay, caramba! Those dark-skinned foreigners are now severing the heads of fair-haired Americans? Maybe they’re also scalping them or shrinking them or putting them on a spike.But those in fear of losing parts north of the neckline can relax. There’s not a follicle of evidence to support Brewer’s claim.Brewer’s mindlessness about headlessness is just one of the immigration falsehoods being spread by Arizona politicians. Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world’s No. 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong
Can they execute this immigration back-flip competently?