There was a time not long ago when all the liberal Washington pundits were clucking about immigration reform. They said that if there was a big bipartisan vote for it in the Senate, then the House would just have to give it a vote. I felt very lonely in saying—time and again—that everyone must be out of their fucking minds. It didn’t make sense for all these pundits to predict the success of the bill. After all, I’m rather new to all of this and these guys have been hanging around Washington for a long time. And I wasn’t predicting failure based on cynicism; I was predicting it based on the merits. I didn’t and still don’t see why it is to the advantage of Republicans to pass immigration reform when (1) most of them won’t vote for it; and (2) the party is unwilling to reach out to immigrants in any other way.
And then the bill passed in the Senate and there was much celebration, even though 70% of the Republicans in the Senate voted against the bill. That’s when Boehner got quite specific: he wasn’t going to bring the bill up for a vote unless a majority of the Republican caucus was for it. The Hallelujah Chorus ended and everywhere I looked, Washington pundits were sounding a lot like I had been. Suddenly, people were making lists of the reasons why immigration reform was always a long shot.
Not everyone gave up hope, of course. There was a group of pundits and reporters—especially over at the Washington Post—who I have taken to calling the Happy Horseshit Caucus. It is made up of a lot of very smart people who I admire and generally find quite insightful. And it is led by Greg Sargent. You know, despite the the frowning caricature, he’s got to be one of the most optimistic people in Washington. And I admire that. I love it when people call me Pollyanna, even if they are always being sarcastic. Optimism may not be my cup of tea, but I admire those who can manage it.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t look kind of sad to watch someone scraping the last couple of ounces out of the optimism barrel. And I’m afraid that Sargent is doing that today, although I could be wrong; he may go back and scrape some more later. This time, he is focused on a bit of handicapping that David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report has done. Wasserman thinks there “may be a narrow majority in the House who could be privately willing to support Boehner allowing a vote.” And then he goes on to mention three Republican Representatives that might be in this category. Setting aside the two weasels there, the fact that we know who some of these Representatives by name are an indication that they would not be willing to do so. Wouldn’t the fact that they allowed immigration reform to pass be used against them in a primary? I can even see it being worse, “Not only did my opponent allow amnesty for 11 million illegals, he wasn’t even willing to be honest with the voters of this great country!”
Look: I don’t want it to be this way. I think the bill as it now stands is marginally more good than bad. But I think the pathway to citizenship is far too difficult and long. I’m not keen on many of the big business sweeteners. And I don’t relish the idea of militarizing the border. For one thing, it looks bad; it looks like just what it is: racism. Remember: nearly half of the illegal immigration problem is from overstaying visas. So militarizing the boarder seems mostly to say, “We hate spics!”
Of course. Of course. It could happen. I would say that Sargent’s optimism barrel has maybe 3% left in it. But that means that my pessimism barrel is 97% full. H. L. Mencken was attacking democracy and the common man when he wrote his famous quotation. But no one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the modern Republican Party.