End of a narrative
The Democratic Strategist describes the collapse of the immigration bill, which it regards as an unmitigated disaster in tones bordering on panic.
The margin was pretty stunning: 46-53, or fourteen votes shy of the 60 necessary to cut off debate. And even though (annoyingly) the Post article linked to above suggested the bill was killed off by attacks "from the left and right," it's clearly GOP support that collapsed. Democrats (including their leader, Harry Reid) supported cloture 33-15, while Republicans (including their leader Mitch McConnell) opposed it 37-12; the two independent split, with Lieberman voting for cloture and Sanders against it. All the Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate (Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Obama) voted for cloture, along with 2004 nominee Kerry. With Sam Brownback, an earlier supporter of the "grand bargain," voting "nay," John McCain stands alone, more than ever, in the Republican presidential field.
... it's clear the Senate's done for the time being. But the issue is obviously not going away. Even as they high-five each other for killing "the amnesty bill," conservative pundits and activists are already talking about next steps towards an "enforcement first" policy (check out the ongoing discussion at National Review's The Corner for details). And newly emboldened by their Senate victory, anti-immigration conservatives are not likely to be satisfied with fences or border control money or other such amelioratives. If not in the Senate or House, then in the right-wing blogs and on talk radio, we will soon see an effort to make mass arrests and deportations, along with big-time employer sanctions, a limus test for Republican candidates for president and for Congress in 2008. What Democrats do about all this, other than standing back and watching the carnage, is an open and important question.
What's striking about the piece is that it asks nearly all of the wrong questions. The major correct question to ask is how a bill with so much lobbying and political muscle behind it could so abjectly fail? The most probable answer is that the narrative behind amnesty and open borders has died. Somewhere in the last few years, the idea behind it became fundamentally so repulsive to such a large number of people that the bill, like the Zepplin which outstayed its time, would despite efforts to lighten this or strengthen that, remain on the ground for so long as it retained the kernel of the narrative. The Democratic Strategist is correct is saying that the "immigration bill" is not dead. But it really has a new name and core narrative: regaining the sovereignty of the borders: they can't think it -- yet.