Mark Takano and Good Political Theater

Mark TakanoThis is fun. Some GOP members in the House have written a draft letter to John Boehner asking him to break up the immigration bill. The supposed reason for this is because doing comprehensive immigration reform will “ensures that little will be done right.” Well, Riverside, CA Democratic Representative Mark Takano got hold of the letter. He used to be a high school teacher, so he graded it. And gave it an F. But the comments are the best part.

Much of the grading is highly pedantic. For example, he complains that the phrase “incremental, step-by-step approach” is redundant. And indeed it is. But it is a rhetorical flourish. What’s more, it is the kind of thing that one finds when he is looking for things to criticize. But don’t get me wrong, it is delicious fun!

Mostly, however, he provides a substantive argument against those on the right who are complaining about the bill. The first paragraph reads:

Our immigration system is broken and in need of serious reform. We must secure our boarder, improve interior enforcement, streamline legal immigration, and modernize our visa system to meet the needs of our economy.

Takano comments, “Seems like you support the Senate bill that addresses all of these.” The letter later states, “We are disturbed by the secret and underhanded way in which the immigration bill moved through the Senate.” On this issue, Takano destroys the letter with such ease that I remain in awe. He doesn’t even argue against it; he just lists the facts:

Judiciary Committee:
  5 days of mark up
  over 200 amendments considered

Senate Floor:
  3 weeks of mark up, including more amendments

He notes also that the letter never deals with the main issue which is the path to citizenship. And then he ends with a laugh-out-loud line, “If you don’t understand the bill—come by my office and I’ll explain it.”

This is all political theater, of course. Takano is not serious about the grading, but his point is very serious. These conservative Representatives are being disingenuous. The only reason they want to break up the Senate bill in little pieces is so they can take out of it what they want and leave the pathway to citizenship, which they don’t want. Militarize the board? Check! Make the lives of undocumented immigrants far worse? Check! Provide more corporate welfare in the form of cheap labor? Check! But anything that might improve the lives of current undocumented residents is out of the question. In other words, they aren’t for immigration reform; they want to kill immigration reform; and if they can get some traditional conservative goodies at the same time, so much the better.

There is one thing that Takano did not say that ought to be: this is the most honest conservative approach to immigration reform. And it is likely the most honest we will ever see. Politicians never come out against popular legislation. It is always, “I would love to support this bill, if only it weren’t for blah, blah, blah.” Takano does make this point in a specific case near the end of the letter, telling the writers, “Please argue policy, not procedure!” But what exactly do the Republicans have other than procedure? The only policies they agree on are lowering the taxes of the rich (repeal of Obamacare is part of that) and stopping women from having abortions. And they aren’t going to come right out and say that they hate immigrants.

Regardless of these real issues, all politics is theater. But rarely do we see great theater like this paper grading from Mark Takano.

H/T: Digby

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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