As I have written before, politics is no longer about good legislation, it is about politicking. Our DC based legislative processes have evolved into a frenetic, self-absorbed, narcissistic tango of Beltway ricocheting that produces products not designed to yield a better functioning country; but designed only to preserve the contact between ours legislators’ abundant behinds and their opulent leather chairs.
And nothing could make that plainer than the wandering, and eventually fruitless machinations that will forever be the hallmark of the Kennedy-McCain Immigration bill. In the fallout of the debacle that was, lie some important lessons for the week.
1. The Conservative base rejects the notion of an Imperial Senate.
It is not so much that McCain and Kennedy wanted to pass their poorly structured immigration bill and attempt to buy votes via the issuance of Z visas; it was more that they cobbled together a poorly thought out bill, and then tried to ram it down our collective throats. In by-passing the usual legislative protocols, they essentially claimed omnipotent authority on the issue, and virtually dared the public to read the bill and find fault with it. Which many people did, and what fault they did find.
Most noted being the intrepid, and narcolepsy vaccinated Hugh Hewitt, who took it upon himself to not only read the entirety of the bill the first weekend it was made public, but later went on to make several very serious, and very important recommendations for strengthening the bill.
Such recommendations were rejected as if coming from the hands of the unwashed. The Imperial forces in the Senate were so blinded by myopic personal agendas that they rejected all advice on content, presentation, and salesmanship. In the process they insulated themselves from the very public that they are sworn to serve and damaged not only their individual reputations, but the reputation of the Senate as a serious legislative body.
The base rejects their superiority in this matter, since many of its most strident proponents either failed to read the bill or failed to understand it. Neither case leaves the base believing in the infallibility of such blowhards.
2. The conservative base rejects the idea of trading bad legislation for votes.
Stretching way back to the New Deal, vote buying via legislation has long been a Democrat practice. Typically it makes no difference if the legislation is even passed, ninety per cent of Democrat sponsored legislation is designed simply for the roll-call votes to line up their base for the next election cycle. And for those bills that are passed, they are often missing key funding elements diminishing their financial longevity; and/or they often contain loose eligibility requirements and no enforcement provisions. Such legislation is vote buying at its most systematic and formula-matic.
And it use to be favored by only one party.
The McCain/Graham Republicans seem to have capitulated the foundations of the base for crass politics, and for some reason, believed the base would follow merrily along. Wrong.
At its core the conservative movement is about passing conservative legislation that works. It is not about passing money to, or ignoring the indiscretions of special interest groups. It is about passing laws in this country that protect our citizens, protect their opportunities, and protect the longevity of our nation and its Constitution.
It is not about pandering to a potential voting bloc that is seeking legitimacy out of their illegal residency in our country. The base is about conservatism, not about winning elections.
3. The base is paying attention.
There are no more sleepy summer sessions where the conservative base is asleep and wandering conservative lawmakers can conspire with liberal panderers to slip in a few congressional stinkers, and get away with it.
The base is tuned in to radio. They are reading blogs. They get on the phone to their congressmen and women. We are not asleep. To treat us like dolts, then lecture us on how much we don’t understand about the complexities of a poorly written bill, will not slip the observation of the voting base. Be prepared for the fallout. Be prepared to run in Republican primaries, even if it may cost us in 2008.
4. Conservatives are mostly moderate on immigration…security, accountability, fairness.
There were no KKK moments in the debate surrounding the latest immigration bill from the base. All of the name calling and race baiting came from those that found themselves trapped in supporting the bill. There we no protests from the right disparaging immigrants or their families. The debate centered around the three elements that are needed to have a comprehensive immigration package…border security, accountability and fairness.
Most agree that immigration has to be fixed, and the sooner it gets fixed the better. But we must be able to ensure that our borders are not letting in our next attackers. The porous border with Mexico has to be controlled before any immigration policy can be effective. In the end, all of our borders will require the same diligence, but it makes no sense to move forward until we can stop 99% of the illegal immigrant flood.
We must be able to know who is in this country, under what pretenses, where they are, and for how long. Again, not onerous requirements, but a must in fitting all of the immigration pieces together.
And lastly, we should be fair. We must be fair to those that have been waiting their turn to enter this country legally, and we must come to some fair arrangement for the majority of illegals who have made a net positive contribution during their stay here.
Fair treatment for the chronically deported or habitually criminal is jail and deportation.
5. John Kerry lives.
“I voted against the immigration bill, right after I voted for it.” Brownback. Priceless.
6. Presidential political seasons make everyone crazy.
McCain challenging bill opponents. Parrot-boy Graham and his unreasoned water-carrying for McCain. Trent Lott’s attack on the liberties of talk radio hosts, talk radio listeners, and internet bloggers. The wild mis-steps of the Dems on this one. The Ted Kennedy lamentations and Harry Reid’s ode to mourning. KKK Byrd’s nonsensical oration and his silly demands for order in the Senate. What’s not to look forward to for the next sixteen months.
7. Lastly, new media is the new power on the right.
An important evolution has occurred in the conservative base. Bloggers, conservative talk radio hosts, and talk show listeners have evolved from party cheerleaders into the conservative power base. Disappointed by the pork and pandering going into the 2006 elections, and ever confounded by the lack of leadership from the likes of Lott, Frist, and McCain, the informed, well-read, well written, and outspoken right has begun to use the new media and its energy to re-right the conservative agenda and get the conservative movement back on course.
Lott’s frustration with the base this week reflects his inability to bulldoze the base with bluster, and is a recognition that conservative blogging is not the Daily Kos, but a natural extension of pamphleteering, and just as effective for moving the political dialog on the right forward. A concept that some of the stodgy Republican Senators can’t seem to grasp or come to grips with.
The gyrations of the Senate were instructive this week; hopefully conservative lawmakers took note and will adjust accordingly. There are already plenty of Democrats around; we just don’t need Republicans imitating them.