The un-dead

The immigration bill is back. Good!

Looks as if someone neglected to drive a stake through the heart of the immigration bill. I had been betting that the Republicans would choose to let go, hoping (with the help of useful idiots like David Broder) to blame it on the Democrats. But no: it’s back.

Fine with me. The predictable result will be to continue the process of tearing the Republican Party apart. (When Trent Lott starts denouncing “talk radio,” I smile.) Their version of the Netroots really, really hates this bill. Or, you might say, their version of the netroots really, really hates, and this bill is a good focus for that.

GWB and his allies seem to be making two calculations.

1. They’re afraid of replicating the disastrous mistake of California’s Republicans, who seem to have turned themselves from a serious contender for power to a permanent minority by exploiting the immigration issue (“They … keep … coming!”) in the mid-90s and thus losing the Latino vote for a generation. (Tom Edsall reports that Latino evangelicals, a fast-growing group where the GOP was making gains nationally, have discovered that blood is thicker than bullsh*t and are willing to walk away if the Republicans keep playing footsie with the nativists.)

2. Their paymasters in the business sector really want this one, and will know precisely whom to blame if the bill dies after three-quarters of the Democrats in the Senate voted for it and three-quarters of the Republicans against it.

Some of them, including the President, also believe in the substance of the bill.

All of the amendments should be regarded as shadow-play. The bill still has to get through the House. If it does, I predict that Pelosi and Reid will imitate their Republican predecessors and appoint Democratic conferees who meet in secret and vote in lockstep for a “clean” bill, bearing only an accidental resemblance to whatever passed the two chambers. That bill will be slightly more pro-immigrant and anti-business than the current compromise, but not so much so that the White House will walk away from it. (Apparently there’s now talk of some form of ID with encoded biometrics, which would make employer sanctions a real possibility and therefore prevent a new wave of illegals from coming to work and waiting for the next amnesty. Employers would hate that, but probably not enough to turn away from the overall deal.)

That scenario would give Congressional Republicans a final choice between terminally pissing off the Latinos and the Chamber of Commerce on the one hand and outraging the Republican activist base (while handing a victory to Reid, Pelosi, and Ted Kennedy) on the other. Will that be strychnine, Senator, or arsenic?

My bet now (and since I haven’t been right yet on this issue, I ought to be due) is that we’ll have a bill on the President’s desk this year.

It’s really fortunate that I don’t have a conspiratorial turn of mind. If I did, not only would I believe that Dick Cheney is an al Qaeda “sleeper” whose mission was to promote global jihad by making the United States a pitiful, helpless, and hated giant, but that Karl Rove is actually under the control of Rahm Emmanuel. Has Rove done anything he should not have done, or left undone anything that he should have done, to destroy the Republican Party? Personally, I hope to be there when he gets out of prison and hand him a nice bouquet.

As to Reid: from where I sit, he looks to me like a seriously misunderestimated figure. The Republicans are eager to hang themselves, and on current form Reid is the rope merchant to end all rope merchants.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: