The 'Don't Tell Mama' Voters
Polls suggest a hidden anti-Hillary bloc.
"When you reward illegality, you get more of it. So, President Mary Smith 20 years from now will be proposing more amnesty, only instead of amnesty for 12 million people, it will be for 30 million people."
National Review has been one of the voices of sanity in the immigration debate. If even NR concedes that there's an official amnesty in our near future, the debate hasn't "moved to the right," as Lowry argues. The debate is over.
This is all unnecessary. There is no need for a "compromise" or a "framework for a compromise" that includes a promise of amnesty at all. Kate O'Beirne recently noted that conventional wisdom says comprehensive reform probably won't pass this year or next, in part because Dems don't want to go out on a limb for amnesty. Why make a key concession when you are about to win? Answer: John McCain. The NR editorial can only be read as a desperate attempt to save John McCain from the political consequences of his misguided pro-comprehensive stand by offering him a fallback position more palatable to the GOP primary voters. Indeed, Lowry made this explicit before the editorial, when he wrote that endorsing Isakson
would take care of McCains' political problem, it would give him a position on immigration that would avoid the excesses on both sides, and it would move the ball forward significantly in the intra-Republican debate--he could legitimately lead on this. [E.A.]
In other words, 'Here's a compromise we don't really support--or that we don't dare come out and say we support--but, hey, it helps our guy with his 'political problem.'' I don't see how that is leadership. (Thank God McCain wasn't running during the welfare debate of the mid-90s, or we might have wound up with NR endorsing one of the many make-believe compromises proposed by moderates as a way of blocking the entitlement-ending law that finally passed.)
If McCain's support for semi-amnesty is killing him, why can't he just drop it? Why does he need a fallback position that includes a promise of amnesty? There are plenty of other fallback positions. McCain could support enforcement with a mere promise of future debate on what to do with current illegal residents. He could call for a national commission! He could say, "The nation is not ready for comprehensive immigration reform," and pledge to educate it slowly, over time. He could declare his earlier position "ill-considered" and retreat into meaningful silence--i.e., shut up. OK, that one's impossible.
In any case, he doesn't have to lose and drag NR (and the immigration debate) down with him.
**--Forgery and false evidence is also a problem with my proposed alternative, which would establish effective border control and then debate a retrospective amnesty. But it's less of a problem if you don't attract millions of illegal immigrants by writing an amnesty promise into the law. Under my suggested deal, if an amnesty is impossible to limit then future debaters could decide not to have an amnesty! In any case, they could adjust the proof-of-residence requirements to fit what they'd learned about the government's ability to catch cheating (and thwart ACLU-like attempts to create truck-sized loopholes in the system).
***--Nor would it "take the issue off the table," as some worried Republicans now want to do. It would start a heated debate on whether the "benchmarks" had been met or should be modified.
****--Ponnuru argues that the "expectation of an amnesty" already exists because "amnesty has been debated for three years." In other words, McCain proposed it, so now we might as well do it. If this argument is right, it doesn't much matter what position McCain takes now--he's done his work. 3:32 A.M. link
Photograph of Ann Coulter on Slate's home page by Brad Barket/Getty. Photograph of a wedding cake with two grooms on Slate's home page by Hector Mata/AFP Photo. Photograph of Princess Diana on Slate's home page by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images.