Simply being right in politics is generally not enough to carry the day. United States Congressman Bart Supak, a pro-life conservative Democrat re-learned that lesson, when he agreed to a presidential executive order as the seal of approval for satisfying his objections to the new healthcare legislation. He has since been pilloried by some as a capitulator. And these people consider the president’s E.O. a worthless piece of paper with no clout or authority.
Besides the point, that view is mere political ignorance disguised as sound-bite expertise, the axiom here is that timing and truth are functionally related, such that good truth with bad timing frequently fails the political test of passage.
Thus, even though the 200,000 or so immigration reform advocates who marched in Washington, D.C., during the last throes of the healthcare debate were not too pleased to be generally ignored by the media, and clearly dissed by the Democratic leadership. They better get used to it. Immigration reform is going to occur in America, that’s a fact. It is clearly an idea with legs. It just has bad timing.
Sure, the healthcare battle is over–the historic legislation passed. Time for immigration reform, right? It’ll be the next major battle of historic note. On with the Obama agenda and all that.
Well, actually, no, no, and no again. In fact, although there will be lip-service given to it by the Democrats, and the Republicans would like nothing better than to duke it out with the Democrats over this issue–the Repubs are literally licking their chops to get into it over immigration since they see it as a perfect issue given the high unemployment figures and bad (though improving) economy. You can see the headlines now: Illegal immigrants take American jobs.
Dream on, Repubs. For those making books on politics, place your bets that immigration reform will not see the light of day until after the November midterm elections. This truth will simply have to wait. The Democrats are not fools; they know a non-winner, when they see one (at least, when they pay attention). So all of you, put your political money on the next big thing, the issue that will ensure that at the end of the day in November 2010 (although some seats will change names, the Democrats will still be very much in charge of the Congress and the presidency. That issue is bank and financial reform. Sexy? No, it sounds boring and drab on the surface. But crucial and timely–absolutely. This is the right idea at the most appropriate time.
Why? Because, quite simply, we want somebody to pay for the misery we have and are suffering. Somebody has to go and get the bad guys. Besides jobs and housing adjustments, the primary thing a great majority of Americans are still angry over–many a lot more than they’ve admitted to themselves yet–is the gross inequity of bank bonuses for financial executives who lost billions of our dollars, and the main-street Americans who got screwed in the process.
The bank bail-outs, the lack of regulation, the bolstering of greed in the midst of rising poverty and the termination of too many 401(k)s and other retirement packages, is an ever-present irritant in the air, even as we seem to be moving ever so incrementally out of the economic ditch and doldrums of the last three (some say eight) years.
Democrats plan to capture that firefly in a bottle, and if they do, the wild speculations of the opposition party about a repeat of 1994 will quite simply vanish into nothingness.
The House has already voted on a relatively tough piece of regulatory legislation (in December, when virtually nobody noticed) to prevent “too big to fail” institutions from dragging everybody down again. It is right now entitled, the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” and it is fascinating reading. It contains a consumer financial oversight commission, if you can believe that and many, many other goodies.
Of course, by the time the Senate does its own version–slated to start around April 26–that will be some battle royale, given the enormous amounts of money that will be involved (the private, corporate kind to kill the legislation), some of what the House bill contains will surely change. But the public relations campaign the administration is about to launch showing that, the banks represent the villains and the Democrats the avenging public servants, will be great grist for the media mill, and when Republicans get back into their Party of No strategy, the public will flummox them at the polls.
This, dear friends, is the issue of issues for this year. This will be the battle of the century that will take us right into the voting booths. How can the Democrats (the underdogs) rope and control what’s never been tamed–the banking and finance industry of this country?
This will be a Hollywood-style political blockbuster–absent an Al Quaeda strike in New York, Washington or L.A.– that will surely distract America profoundly. This has all the makings of a Republican Waterloo, with or without Tea Party regulars.
Stay tuned. The political chess follies has now begun again. The game’s afoot, so place your bets on the plush velvet of timing and political truth.
David Horne, Ph.D., is executive director of the California African American Political Economic Institute (CAAPEI) located at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
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