I can’t say I’m in complete agreement with Michael Barone’s column on immigration this morning:
A columnist is tempted to say that the politicians should toss aside political concerns and do what they believe is in the public interest. Easy enough to say. But something just like that may be happening. Politicians act out of some combination of calculation and conviction — the proportions vary. On immigration, there are some politicians, of both parties and on both sides, who are visibly acting out of conviction. And not just the noisy immigration restrictionists, like Rep. Tom Tancredo, who wants a border fence.
These conviction politicians include Sens. Edward Kennedy and John McCain, who favor relatively generous guest-worker and legalization provisions, and Sens. Jon Kyl and John Cornyn, who favor a less generous version. Add to this list George W. Bush, who seems poised to take an unusually active role on the issue.
The route to agreement is to give all of these conviction politicians much of what they want. A fence, high-tech border-security and identification devices, some compromise on guest workers and legalization — all could be part of an omnibus measure. As for the calculation politicians, as they try to assess the political landscape and reconcile the seemingly contradictory findings of various polls, they appear to be coming to the conclusion that inaction — or blocking action now that the issue is so visible — poses a higher political risk than taking action.
I think that this misrepresents the actual state of affairs somewhat. As I’ve written before I don’t recall when there’s ever been a greater divide between the opinions of the electorate and the positions being staked out by their elected representatives. Under the present state of the Republic with nearly all Congressional districts being “safe” and significant legal and practical barriers placed in the paths of third parties and insurgent candidates, at times the distinction between a legislator voting his or her convictions (when those convictions are dramatically different from popular sentiment that’s been stable for quite some time and trending in the opposite direction from the positions of the legislators) and outright tyranny are a very fine line.
An omnibus bill with a little of something for everyone and a lot of nothing will be more ineffective kabuki. It is itself a thwarting of the will of the people.
The bare minimum we should expect from these elected representatives is that they make an attempt to convince their constituents of the correctness of their (the legislators’) positions. I haven’t seen that. And, as I’ve also written before, I think when conjoined with the lack of enough humility to swallow hard and represent the views of one’s constituents, the apparent lack of willingness to either educate the electorate or justify one’s actions is itself damaging to the Republic.