The “comprehensive immigration” shamnesty is closer to passing through the Senate thanks to 16 Republicans who switched their votes from nay to yea since the last cloture vote. That doesn’t mean it’s the law of the land, or even that it’s out of the Senate yet, but it’s a good indicator that the Senate is listening not to the 75% of Americans who oppose the bill, but to the 25% who support it. And it’s a good indicator that those 16 senators who switched sides got some promise or incentive to do so. Why else would they vote to move forward on a bill that 3 in 4 Americans oppose? Why else would they vote to move forward on a bill that, thus far, the House seems likely to kill? What is going on behind the scenes to move so many democratically elected officials to vote against the express wishes of the voters who put them in office?
The Senate has a couple more votes on the bill set for later in the week; some of the senators who voted for cloture today will try the trick of voting against the bill itself in a couple of days, knowing that they’re pulling a John Kerry “I voted for it before voting against it” move. Some of them even know that some of us are on to the trick, but they don’t care: We’re a tiny slice of the electorate, and by the time they’re up for re-election there will be other issues at play that they believe will insulate them from our wrath. And they may be right about that. Whatever the ultimate fate of the bill turns out to be, by playing this bill in the way that they have, Republicans and Democrats, from Sen. Sam Brownback who wants to be president to Sen. Jim Webb who ran on an anti-illegal immigration platform only to vote in favor of cloture today, have severely undermined basic faith in democracy. We no longer have any reason to believe that a majority of our senators are acting in basic good faith. They’re voting against the will of the public, and they’re smearing the public that opposes their vote. The public has no reason to trust them anymore; they won’t enforce the laws on the books, they’re voting against the majority, and they’re supporting lawbreakers against the law-abiding. And for what? If life weren’t so good and comfortable in the US today, we might be at a genuine revolutionary moment.
But it’s not over. The House, all of which is up for re-election next year, will have to be more sensitive to the public will on this. That’s our chance, maybe our last chance, to kill this bill for good. What the Senate and president support, the House may kill out of its own political self-interest. If they hear from us.
Looking forward, President Bush would be wise to switch parties now. I’m serious. It may be the only way he can salvage anything of Iraq. He has spent enough political capital for three terms. He has isolated himself from the very base that has supported him through thick and thin for years. Not only has he isolated himself from us, he went out of his way to denigrate and smear us over a terrible bill that won’t do what he says it will do and will do what he says it won’t. Like the Senate Republicans, we have no reason to trust him anymore. Thus isolated, he can’t count on any vocal support come September, when the war is up for a vote again. The majority of the country is against him; his own base now has reason to mistrust and even hate him. Sen. Richard Lugar is signalling a Republican revolt on the war, and yet another move by Senate Republicans away from the party’s base that still supports the war even if it’s angry with the administration. The president’s actions since his re-election in 2004 have given the country a Democrat majority in Congress, so he might as well make it official and give the Democrats the White House too, by switching now. That surely wouldn’t solve his problems with the likes of Dennis Kucinich and Nancy Pelosi, but it might confuse everyone long enough for him to keep the war going long enough to at least see the surge through.
Looking ahead to next year, I’m loath to make predictions but it’s hard to see how the party gets fired up for anything. We put senators and presidents in office who despise us and vote against us. They fight us harder than they fight Democrats and even harder than they fight the country’s real enemies. Why get fired up to put them back in office? Why get fired up to put a senator or governor at the head of a doomed presidential ticket? The party needs a man on a white horse, an American Camillus who’ll make things right. But we’re unlikely to get that, even in Fred. It’s possible, but unlikely. Heroes are in short supply these days. We send them to Afghanistan and Iraq and promptly forget them.
So where do we go from here, over the next few days? We have to fight our own party leadership and kill the amnesty bill. This time we have to make sure it’s dead. We have to fight our own president. We’ll have to field candidates to challenge senators like Lindsey Graham from the right, if for no other reason than to remind them that we still have a vote for them to ignore. And we have to do it before the Democrats solidify their hold on Congress next year, and probably take the White House, and move to re-instate the Fairness Doctrine to squelch debate and criticism of them. That’s the coming battle after the 2008 elections: Whether the free speech environment we’ve enjoyed for the past 20 years will remain free or not.
We have some serious times ahead. We’re at real war with a real enemy around the world and we have to fight some heavy rearguard action here at home in the political arena. Now is not the time to rest; it’s the time to count our losses, choose the ground to make our stand, and fight.
Update: There’s a second cloture vote on Thursday.
The second, and final, cloture vote is coming Thursday (that will be to end debate and proceed to a final vote on the bill itself), and only five votes need to shift from Yes to No to stop it. That seems like a good bet, with good candidates for switching including Brownback, Bond, Ben Nelson, Ensign, Burr, and Gregg. If they thought they’d gotten a lot of calls and faxes before,…
Calls and faxes are fine but they don’t seem to be doing any good. We need to get the senators’ attention a little more sharply this time. We’re cooking up an ad to that effect.