Speaker of the House Denny Hastert announced last Wednesday that, rather than send House negotiators into the proverbial smoke-filled room with Senators to come up with a "compromise" immigration bill, the House would hold hearings around the country to find out what the public actually thinks about the legislation that will decide the future of America.
Hastert's declaration is perhaps the closest the American political system can come to the most stirring sentence in the lexicon of parliamentary politics: "We will go to the country"—which is what a party says when it calls a general election to decide a great issue of state.
Instead, the national newspapers demanded a rush to judgment—because haste and heedlessness are the most likely ways they can get what they want.
A New York Times editorial scornfully denounced the House because "they want to take a closer look at the Senate bill"—which is 118,227 words long! The Newspaper of Record raged, "Like the baffled hominids of '2001: A Space Odyssey,' they are poking at the Senate's big-picture approach with a leg bone."
The Los Angeles Times editorial board sputtered, "These meetings are nonsense."
The Wall Street Journal editorialistas hissed, "This is the equivalent of snake-handling." (By the way, the most honest staffer at the WSJ editorial page is the anonymous person who selects the online reader responses to their editorials. All eleven comments he picked excoriate the WSJ's open borders dogma. I hope my mentioning his fairness doesn't cost him his job!)
In the Washington Post, Ruben Navarrette Jr. was in a snit that we weren't going to see business as usual.
"Congress … is more broken than the U.S.-Mexican border… It's unusual, to say the least, for one chamber to hold public hearings on the work of another. Besides, if you want to hold town hall-style meetings, why not hold them before bills are passed in the first place? Maybe because August is close enough to November so that hearings could affect the midterm elections." [Congressional Immigration Stunts, June 25, 2006]Imagine that—Members of the House trying to win votes by doing what the voters want!
Why has it become so rare for the majority party in the House to "go to the country" like this?
Over the decades, the technology behind partisan gerrymandering has improved so much that election to the House has become close to a lifetime sinecure—if the Congressman doesn't blow it by taking the wrong stand on one of the rare issues that voters notice.
For example, that's why Congress hasn't carried out its Constitutional duty to declare war since 1942. It prefers to let the President take responsibility for deciding war or peace—because, otherwise, citizens might remember how their Representatives voted and throw them out.
Thus this year's unusual show of backbone by House Republicans demonstrates just how exceptionally strong is public sentiment against the Senate immigration bill—despite those rigged polls constantly cited in the Establishment media.
The New York Times, in fact, just reported in Bush's Immigration Plan Stalled as House G.O.P. Grew More Anxious that:
"Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, the head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, went to Mr. Boehner and Mr. Hastert and, using polling data and pointing to what he described as politically implausible sections of the bill, warned of the consequences of enactment of the Senate legislation… Mr. Reynolds had told House leaders that supporting the [Senate] bill would be 'suicide for some of our members.'" [By Adam Nagourney, Carl Hulse and Jim Rutenberg, June 25, 2006]Meanwhile, the Senate will try to strike back against the House. It plans to hold pro-illegal immigration hearings in some of the few states left, such as Pennsylvania, where there aren't yet enough illegal immigrants to annoy the citizenry.
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
"Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he came up with the idea for Senate hearings in the shower Thursday morning. 'They have hearings on border security and employment verification,' Specter said. 'OK, that's fine ... I'm going to have a hearing in Pennsylvania on July 5 ... bring in farmers and landscapers and people in the Northeast region as to the necessity of a guest worker program.'"[ Dueling immigration hearings split GOP, Carolyn Lochhead, June 23, 2006](This may be another misjudgment—the town Hazleton, PA is one of the national leaders in the use of local ordinances to repel illegals and Senator Rick Santorum has begun to campaign on the issue.)
The reality is that, as the distinguished economics analyst Robert Samuelson has pointed out, the prestige press was criminally negligent in failing to report that the Senate bill would vastly increase legal immigration.
Samuelson wrote in What You Don't Know About the Immigration Bill back on May 31:
"One job of journalism is to inform the public about what our political leaders are doing. In this case, we failed. The Senate bill's sponsors didn't publicize its full impact on legal immigration, and we didn't fill the void. It's safe to say that few Americans know what the bill would do because no one has told them. Indeed, I suspect that many senators who voted for the legislation don't have a clue as to the potential overall increase in immigration."As last week's editorial reactions indicate, that irresponsibility wasn't an accident. It was a key component of the Main Stream Media's strategy for covering immigration.
Yet, what you aren't supposed to know can hurt you … badly.
Let's step back to put the immigration controversy in a new and broader historical perspective.
Yet, in the narrow Hegelian/Marxist sense in which Fukuyama used the term "History," he was correct. The big controversy of the 20th Century—socialism vs. capitalism—was effectively over. Pure socialism was dead. Capitalism had survived, but not laissez-faire. From now on there would be markets, but with government interference.
Unfortunately, many commentators are still living in the past. They think basic ideology is still the big issue—the free market vs. socialism. Well, history hasn't ended, but it has moved into a new stage. Regulated capitalism has won, so most of the political struggles in the future are not going to be about the old boldface big ideas like nationalizing the means of production, but about the fine print.
Contra Fukuyama, there will never be a ceasefire in this struggle between the clever and the clueless. The Age of Ideology is over but the Age of the Fine Print is upon us.
For instance, back in 1996 when the California legislature unanimously deregulated the state's electricity market, few in public life bothered to read the fine print because the ideological principle of deregulation seemed so historically inevitable at the time. Well, it turned out the devil was definitely in the details. The only people who mastered the minutiae were the traders at Enron and other such firms, who raped California out of billions.
A basic strategy for the crafty to make money is privatizing profits and socializing costs. To do this, they use tame politicians and journalists to help them hand their costs of doing business off to the public. (Economists, when they aren't blinded by ideology, call these costs "externalities.")
The Senate Sellout would further increase the burdens imposed on us.
And that's why its supporters in the press don't want us to worry our pretty little heads about what's in those 118,227 words.
[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and
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