Will the Democratic Party Follow Ben Nelson's Lead on Immigration?by Kyle Michaelis
The following U.S News article is based on a story from the ultra right-wing Washington Times, so it's somewhat suspect. But, what truth there is in the report reinforces Nelson's place as one of the Democratic Party's premiere power-brokers and expert navigators through treacherous political waters when people are finally ready to listen to the American people and get serious about getting stuff done.
The immigration bill is back, with the Senate expected to debate it over the next two weeks. Senate passage is by no means assured, but the measure appears to have a fighting chance of surviving the legislative maneuvers and counter-maneuvers expected of the next couple of weeks. Keen observers of the current debate, however, have long expressed reservations about the chance of anything close to the Senate "grand bargain" (the bipartisan legislation including both border security measures and a "path to citizenship") making it through the House. In the House, Republicans seem firmly opposed to the legislation -- while Democrats are wary of passing any immigration bill without GOP support.I've long advocated comprehensive immigration reform and have taken issue on numerous occcasions with Nelson's playing the "Amnesty" card with such unprincipled abandon. But, comprehensive reform does not require a single piece of comprehensive legislation if our politicians are truly willing to tackle the full scope of our nation's immigration problem in a responsible and timely manner.
But now Democratic leaders may have found a partial way out of this impasse. The Washington Times reports this morning House Democrats "say they may break the immigration issue up into a series of smaller bills that would put off the tougher parts and allow others to pass, such as border security, and high-tech and agriculture worker programs that have clear support." That "could buy Democrats more time to work out the tougher aspects of immigration, such as what to do about the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens now here, but it would go against the Senate's massive catchall approach and contradicts President Bush's call for a broad bill to pass."
By adopting the "Border Security First" approach that was so successful in Nelson's 2006 re-election effort, there is a definite opportunity for Democrats to make a reasonable start tackling what is understandably a very complicated issue. But, the problem is actually backing-up and proving their commitment to a total overhaul of our broken system after getting the easy stuff out of the way.
Border Security First is a great slogan....it's probably even a good strategy....but, just like saying we need to withdraw our troops from Iraq, the American people must demand a more complete answer from any elected official who is honestly deserving of their trust.
Although I differ with Sen. Nelson on a number of issues, his political acumen is not in question. In fact, as we've seen on Iraq and perhaps now even on immigration, national Democrats would do well to take his counsel and his example seriously if they have any real intention of restoring their party as a viable alternative in America's Heartland. My only hope is that they cut a few less corners and avoid Nelson's unfortunate tendency to occasionally use a good soundbyte at the expense of good policy.
Nelson is a politician - a damn good one at that. On immigration, though, real lives are at stake. It's important to establish who is here as a matter of national security. But, figuring out where things stand so we can move forward in a humane and responsible manner does not support lining up millions of people as if they were pawns on America's political chessboard.
We're not the party of Iowa's xenophobic, Joe McCarthy-loving Congressman Steve King (featured in yesterday's Omaha World-Herald). Thank God for that - we can do so much better. By learning from Nelson's success but improving upon his message by answering the tough questions, that's precisely what we'll do.