Another Teachable Moment

Published on August 20th, 2009

The healthcare debate foreshadows the drive for immigration reform

By Mark Cromer

Judging by the populist upheaval that is shaking the Obama Administration’s still mercurial plan to overhaul the healthcare system, the president’s vow to push for so-called “immigration reform” is almost certain to meet an even bigger firestorm of resistance from middle America.

After all, selling a mass amnesty for as many as 25 million illegal immigrants during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression doesn’t have quite the same appeal to working Americans as reducing the skyrocketing costs of medical care and ensuring treatment.

Thus the administration’s missteps in shepherding through healthcare reform have become, in the parlance of the new Left “a teachable moment.”

Now, what might they learn from this healthcare debacle? Well, there are at least two critical lessons the administration can chalk up as takeaways from its imploding drive for healthcare reform.

Lesson Number One: Don’t try to pass an initiative that you don’t have the votes in the bag for. Obama’s announcement at the feeble ‘Three Amigos’ summit in Mexico last week that immigration reform would be put off until next year means one thing—he knows he doesn’t have the votes. His bid to nationalize healthcare has seriously bled his support among middleclass independent voters and he doesn’t want to risk further hemorrhaging by pushing immigration reform now.

Lesson Number Two: Better to have Congress vote blindly first and apologize later than it is to have Congress consult with the American people before passing a massive, complex bill that will fundamentally alter life for citizens.

Obama understands this instinctively, which is why he pushed hard for Congress to pass a healthcare bill before its August recess, rightly fearing the anger legislators would face once they returned to their home districts. But his momentum on Capitol Hill stalled and he’s been playing defense—and a lackluster one at that—ever since Congress adjourned for summer.

Thus Obama and his congressional cortege will do everything they can to prevent their coming drive for immigration reform from facing hostile crowds outside the beltway and turning into a replay of the battle over healthcare.

Accordingly, immigration reform legislation will likely be introduced early in the next congressional session, and its proponents will be primed to run a blitz geared to rapidly advance it downfield.

To that end, there will be some similarities in the core messaging that Obama and his allies will use to pass a mass amnesty: they will declare that immigration reform is critical to saving the American economy and—in a tip of the hat to George Orwell—will claim that it will create and protect jobs for American workers.

And like his pitch for a radical makeover of the healthcare system, Obama will insist that our immigration system is hopelessly “broken” and unless comprehensive reform is passed immediately, America will face devastating consequences.

But there are some differences Obama can look forward to when immigration reform is taken up in Congress.

Unlike the forces now arrayed against his healthcare reform, virtually all of the corporate big guns are on Obama’s side in the fight to dissolve America’s sovereign rule of law under a tidal wave of illegal immigration. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a host of ancillary business groups will again pour millions of dollars into ensuring their agenda of flooding the job market with cheap “labor capital” remains sacrosanct in the Beltway.

Working alongside those corporate shills will be the full range of ethnocentric Latino interest groups determined to go all out for amnesty, which they consider as central to the expansion of their ethnic powerbase. Operatives from the National Council of La Raza will again fan out across the airwaves to serve as the Obama Administration’s frontline surrogates ready to smear opponents of the bill as “racists”—all while the president keeps a straight face as he decries the “divisive” language of the Republicans.

Whether or not the immigration reform bill comes in at 1,500 dense pages that are drafted in the arcane language of lawyers hungry for billable hours, it’s a safe bet that the final draft of the bill that’s voted on won’t be revealed until the last possible moment, allowing legislators to tell constituents their concerns are being “worked out” right up to the vote.

The ultimate fate of Obama’s campaign pledge to secure the single largest mass amnesty in the history of nation states is as uncertain today as the prognosis of his drive to remake America’s healthcare system.

But one thing is certain; by putting immigration reform off until next year, Obama has assigned it to a Congress that faces reelection even as millions of jobless and underemployed Americans continue to seek work in a battered economy.

Faced with that terminal diagnosis, immigration reform won’t just need major surgery to survive, but a miracle.

Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization.

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