This morning Brian Beutler served up the news that immigration reform – for anyone who has eyes to see it – is dead. Since we published that piece I’ve heard a number of people, including folks at the White House say, “No way, remember when Health Care Reform was dead? Six months are an eternity. There’s lots of positioning.” And all the rest like that.To which I would say, sure. Nothing is ever truly dead until it’s dead. Things change. The unexpected happens. And unlike people, legislation can be resurrected even after it’s really dead. But there’s another issue here beside that fact that Comprehensive Immigration Reform does, increasingly, look dead. It’s a shortcoming both of DC journalism and in some cases of activism as well. And that is the lack of visibility real people have into the actual legislative process.
Too often, whether it’s on taxes or immigration reform or anything else certain parties have a strong interest in fuzzing up what’s actually happening – most often the party that feels like it’s on the wrong side of public opinion. And that leaves bills to just die because in some very fuzzy broad brush way ‘the House’ or ‘the Senate’ couldn’t get it passed.
But there’s no House or Senate. For these purposes, these are simply helpful fictions. Or in this case unhelpful fictions. People only really know what’s going on when you get down to the nitty gritty and say, it didn’t happen because these seven people – naming names – decided to vote against it or decided it wouldn’t get a vote. Or it’s probably not going to happen because these 38 people want it to die but have refused to state a position?
These are nitty gritty details that actually help you understand what’s happening. They elucidate, which is what journalism should do, rather than cloud and obscure, which is what politicians usually find it in their interests to do – mainly to hedge their bets and keep their options open.
So saying, well the establishment is going to make it happen or you just wait, let it percolate, it’s going to pull through isn’t just – I think – wrong as prognostication. It’s also becoming part of the civically toxic practice of making Congress and its ways a black box, killing accountability and in the final analysis tricking the public.