Tuesday, July 03, 2007

On Immigration: Getting Offensive

In the aftermath of last week's defeat of the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" bill (may it rest in pieces, actually, that's a pretty good idea ... start with enforcement), we now ponder what's next.

Lots of people are taking credit, assigning blame (I see it's only Pres. Bush's bill now). Note that we would have never had such a thing take root in the Senate if Harry Reid had not been majority leader, but we need not be disturbed with such trifles as this. Let's let facts be bygones.

This ordeal has me thinking of how we defend ... and how we win.

Defending is easier, and it's not as risky as offense, with its attendant risk of "offending". Deconstruction can be accomplished through a variety of means. But construction is far more difficult, and it requires patience, skill, and plans that account for the various contingencies and obstacles ahead. But when you defend against an attack, a bad argument, a bad strategy ... you don't need to be perfect or sometimes even good. The bad attack often largely does itself in.

In this case, for instance, the proponents of "Comprehensive Reform" overreached in spectacular fashion, seeking to hide from the public the contents of a bill that is fatter than the Bible. Then we found out the whole thing wasn't even written yet. Public skepticism thus reached the boiling point. Then, the "reformers" decried the loyal opposition as bigots, nativists (but wouldn't that make us "Native Americans? and thus good guys?), and the like. Then, we got down to the damning details in the substance of the monstrosity: We learned, not only that Lindsay Graham had zipped up John Kyl in a pod in his Senate Office, but also that the Comprehensive Reformers had little room in their tome for enforcement of the border ... which remains the principal concern of the public on the immigration issue.

All in all, defending this thing was pretty easy, come to think of it. Not to crow and all, but as I recall, I told you it was going nowhere pretty early in the game ... when many others were noting how the sky was falling.

But playing "offense" on immigration reform is going to be much more difficult. Some in the Senate (most notably liberal Demos) have sworn that no "enforcement-only" bills will ever pass Congress. Never mind the fact that this is exactly what an overwhelming majority (in the 70-75% range) wants: Enforce the border and U.S. immigration laws first. Then, we can decide how to handle the illegals who are here.

The opponents of real immigration reform have dug in. They know that defense is easier than offense.

So, what now?

We continue to persuade, to inform, and to educate. We continue to reach out to people who might not agree with us on all issues, but can work with us on the issue at hand. And when appropriate, we remind our elected representatives that we are watching and, though they may not behave like elephants, we have pachyderm-like memories.

In the end, conservatives who want the border enforced are going to have to find some "strange bedfellows" along the way. Want an example? How about labor unions? I have some profound disagreements with labor unions about many things, but I share their skepticism for the creeping internationalism in U.S. business that ignores responsibility to the nation that makes the cash registers ring, or beep, whatever they do now. I am finding myself agreeing with unions more and more regarding their concerns over the disrespect shown to the American worker by American business. This is just an example of a potential ally in this specific fight.

To play offense successfully, we need to find common ground and build coalitions. Hey, I think there's something on the banner of this blog that might speak to this. But I digress ...

So, can we be both winsome and shrewd? I think we can. Ronald Reagan was. Remember the Reagan Democrats? They helped to elect Reagan when the Republicans were a minority party.

Conservatives shouldn't be surprised that they are in the minority, but neither should they be discouraged.

It's not mutually exclusive to be good and smart. Thus, we should be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.