It’s easy to laugh at the faux political debates carried out on Capitol Hill. Poking fun at their shallowness and phoniness saves us from dwelling on a more depressing thought: such deliberations will determine the future of the nation. But this habit can also make us immune to justifiable anger when we are openly deceived.
Take the upcoming omnibus appropriations bill which should anger citizens concerned with transparency and republican self-rule. Its passage is almost guaranteed since no one member will hold it up. Knowing this, congressional leadership will likely tack on to it several controversial policy amendments. Will it be a gun control measure or an ObamaCare bailout? We don’t know, but as of now, it appears that DACA will be rolled into it.
Why do this? To conceal who is responsible and who is to blame, foreclose any genuine public debate of the issue, and largely hide the long-term effects from the public. Since no serious debate will take place, Americans will again forfeit consenting to the future character of our nation, leaving it to be determined by a legislative body whose approval rating stands at 15 percent.
It’s fashionable to call for public debates on contentious issues. Almost every TV pundit demands one, then in the next breath offers 30-second talking exchanges to their guests. But such debates should take place in the U.S. Congress. It was designed for this purpose. The Constitution immunizes members of Congress from punishment for transgressive speech on the House and Senate floor. While certain forms of speech were (and still are) punishable by criminal prosecution, the founders believed that speech for the purpose of republican self-rule cannot be limited when the fate of the nation is involved.
If the immigration debate does not take place in Congress, it will not take place elsewhere. There is no alternative space today—not in the press, not on university campuses, not on TV. We are told that the more mass and social media we have, the more “connected” we are, as though being connected is somehow a virtue of great distinction.
In reality, perhaps the more multifarious the sources of information, the less rational persuasion is possible, as the cacophony of one-sidedness we daily imbibe leads to over-confidence in our own prejudices. We are both more connected to those nearly identical to ourselves and less open to persuasion.
Immigration was the most important issue of the 2016 presidential election, and is arguably the most important issue of our age. It will determine the nature of American society. But Congress is collectively preparing to obfuscate, vote indirectly, and hide the results of its vote, giving plausible deniability to each member. DACA is too important to attach to a spending bill where the public cannot judge it. Give DACA its own vote and its own, serious debate.
Nearly three million illegal immigrants were granted amnesty during the Reagan administration, largely without public debate. Again, largely without public debate, an estimated nine million illegal immigrants have entered the nation since then. The nation, transformed right before its citizen’s eyes, is told that these demographic and cultural changes constitute an irreversible “trend” — the pseudo-scientific word for “destiny.” In other words, destiny rules us, not the public’s representatives authorized by the public’s consent.
The legislative process is the sole place where debate should be demanded by Americans. This cannot happen unless Congress is compelled to vote on the issue individually, not rolled up into a careening, unstoppable omnibus.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill on 03/18/18