In the Arena

A Big Favor From Lindsey Graham

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Lindsey Graham effectively killed the Senate’s looming cap-and-trade package by yanking his support from the bill–and thereby did the Democrats a favor. I’m all in favor of combating global warming, although I think a straight-ahead carbon tax (refundable in the form of reduced payroll taxes) would do the job far more efficiently than cap-and-trade. But if I’m a Democratic strategist, I’m thinking Augustinian thoughts: Lord, make me energy independent, but not just yet.

Why? Because the public has had quite enough, thank you, of government activism this year…and, after Wall Street reform is passed, any further attempts to pass major legislation will add to legitimate conservative arguments that the federal government is attempting to do much to do any of it well. Health care and Wall Street reform were certainly worth doing–but only if caarefully managed and it remains to be seen whether the Obama Administration, which has succeeded in legislating, will have equal or better luck when it comes to actually governing. In any case, public skepticism about the Democratic Party is bound to increase if another humongous piece of legislation, which effectively guarantees higher energy prices, is passed this year.

A more difficult decision looms on immigration. I am a huge, unabashed supporter of immigration reform, including a major expansion of the number of newcomers we allow in each year, especially those with skills. It is a matter both of simple justice and economic wisdom. The more immigrants who arrive, historically, the more the country thrives. They start businesses. They pay taxes. They buy things. Their children work hard in school and go to college. It’s the essential process of this nation’s history. The more mongrelized we come, the stronger we become. (And regular Swampland readers know that I’m also a huge fan of mongrelization, the creation of a new American identity that supercedes and renders irrelevant the notion of race.)

For Democrats, however, an immigration push that comes as the white working class is suffering major job losses and anxieties, is a recipe for disaster. It is said that Harry Reid wants immigration reform to mobilize Nevada Latinos to vote for him in his difficult reelection campaign. It’s the right policy for the wrong reason. I strongly support the passage of immigration reform as soon as possible…but don’t be surprised if Republicans are thrilled to see Democrats make a big deal of it this election year.