Dionne also draws attention to fears about government incompetence in enforcing the laws as another possible reason for the setbacks the "grand bargain" has faced so far...
But there was a larger reason why this bill crashed. About two weeks before it died, I sat down with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who up to that point had voted to let the bill go forward. Bayh was blue about the legislation's prospects, and his explanation had more to do with the political climate than with the bill's particulars -- although he cited some of those in explaining why he voted, in the end, to block a measure he called "a theoretical hodgepodge."
"The timing of this is all wrong," Bayh said. "There's a tremendous amount of middle-class anxiety in the country right now," and anger over immigration reflected "the complete lack of a domestic agenda to address the needs of the middle class" in areas such as health care, pensions and education. When voters saw Congress directing its attention to 12 million illegal immigrants, he said, "They asked: 'When are you going to get around to me? Are you going to get around to me?' " Bayh himself strongly favors legalizing the status of the 12 million. He opposed some of the bill's more punitive sections and sided with Latino groups in trying to strengthen the rules on family reunification.
But he said he understood why many voters weren't buying immigration reform this year. "When people are feeling more secure about their own situations, they're more willing to welcome others," he said in a follow-up interview yesterday. "If we had moved first to address the middle class's anxieties, we would have had a much better chance of success."
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Is "middle-class anxiety" the reason why Sen. Bayh (D-IN) voted to oppose cloture last week? E. J. Dionne interviews Bayh (h/t Polipundit):