The most succinct observation I've come across about the failure of comprehensive immigration reform is that of pollster Scott Rasmussen.
The American public simply didn't want the bill. Rasmussen's polling indicated that the immigration legislation being pushed had the support of just 22 percent of the American public.
Rasmussen goes on further to point out just how far detached from the sentiment of the voting public those pushing the bill were. Not only didn't the American public want the bill, but the focus of the immigration debate in the Senate was the opposite of the public's highest concern.
According to Rasmussen, the main concern of the public -- 72 percent, according to his polling -- is border security. Yet, the main focus of the debate was how to legalize the 12 million plus here illegally.
How could so many supposed leaders (and, yes, I am afraid we've got to include our own president here) be so detached from popular sentiment?
Can it be an accident that less than one in four Americans supported the immigration legislation that the Senate tried to pass, and a similar number of respondents give overall positive approval ratings to Congress?
I don't think so.
If we look at the politics of immigration and how this effort was handled, we see all the characteristics of why the voting public is as disillusioned as it is with politicians of both parties allegedly representing their interests in Washington.
First, we have what I call the politics of ruse and irresponsibility.
This country has large and pressing problems. You would expect that they would be addressed by our leaders in a responsible and timely way. But they are not. The 12 million illegals did not show up here yesterday. The last major comprehensive immigration legislation was passed more than 20 years ago, in 1986. Does it take 20 years to realize that something isn't working? Do we have to wait until a problem is so obviously out of control -- that it is has gotten so bad that our own survival is at stake -- for it to get attention?
I wish this behavior were the exception rather than the rule. But it's not. Consider Social Security and Medicare. These programs are approaching the cliff's edge. Unfunded liabilities six times the size of our annual GDP. Who is talking about this? Has there been one question in any of the presidential debates about this? Not only are the problems huge, but it is also clear to anyone who takes an honest look that these programs require fundamental overhaul. The political challenges in overhauling Social Security and Medicare are even greater than dealing with immigration. And every day we wait, the problems become more complicated and difficult to resolve.
Most Americans would be shocked if they read the list of hearings held on Capitol Hill on any given day. They would find it incredible to see the aspects of our lives that are simply none of the government's business that senators and congressmen sit around discussing -- while real and huge problems are ignored (mostly because of lack of political courage).
Second, is what I call the politics of comprehensive reform. It was clear that the immigration problem has separate components, each in itself independent and complicated: How to secure the border, what to do with a standing illegal population and what kind of rules to set for immigration going forward. Yet, once the problem received national attention, our shining knights, awakened from slumber, lumped them all under one headline and tried to address them all "comprehensively."
This is what is happening with health care. This a large and complex problem, with many separate components, that has been growing out of control for some time.
Now we have an enterprising propagandist named Michael Moore, who has made "Sicko," a simpleminded film about health care that proposes a simpleminded comprehensive solution. And this is what has wakened the political class in Washington! Hopefully, common sense will prevail here, as it seems to have had regarding comprehensive immigration reform.
Third and last, I would identify the problem of the politics of power and pandering displacing the politics of American ideals.
What politician today can articulate the handful of principles and ideals embodied in the few pages of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution? Which ones actually care and try to use these principles in formulating public policy?
Ironically, most of the problems we have today are symptoms of a drifting from those ideals and falling into the politics of power and pandering. We are going to have to bring these ideals, which define this country and make it great, actively back into our lives if we are going to meet the challenges ahead. Most Americans appreciate this.
It's the vacuum of clarity and courage in Washington that's causing all the concern.