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Notes from Minnesota: Bachmann’s Retirement and The Collapsing Momentum of Immigration Reform

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I picked an interesting couple of days to make my first trip to Minnesocold in a few years.

Last night I convened the original membership of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, a group of high-profile bloggers and radio folk that dates from 2002.  AM 1280 The Patriot is my major affiliate up here, and it gathered us all for a wide ranging conversation about the future of Minnesota politics.  Powerline’s John Hinderaker has a summary here.  Thanks to the 300 hundred who turned up for a high end conversation about all that ails the Gopher State and the national GOP. Chad the Elder from Fraters had set the stage for the discussion about the collapse of the state’s GOP here.

Michele Bachmann’s name never came up in two hours of debate about what happened to the state that had produced Tim Pawlenty and Norm Coleman a decade ago.  This morning’s news thus not a surprise.  Her career matched Minnesota’s temporary right turn and the Tea Party’s ascent.  Scott Johnson, also of Powerline reviews the career and its at least temporary eclipse.

Much of last night’s conversation centered on the immigration debate ahead and the issues which the GOP ought to be stressing moving forward.  A rare moment of unanimity was when school choice –public and private– came up as an issue on which we could all get along.

Immigration reform, not so much.  My takeaway, which I will expand upon on today’s show, is that the Senate bill –which I shorthand as Rubio’s bill because it is his account that will be credited or debited if the bill passes– is losing altitude by the day and needs immediate surgery on its border security provisions.  The amendments called for must be clear and specific, require nothing in the way of discretion exercised well by the executive branch, and truly be an offer that conservatives cannot refuse.

To me that means a long, double-side fence the map and construction design of which is spelled out in law, the money appropriated and committed beyond recall, and the authority to proceed “notwithstanding any other law” express.  Completion of the 1,000 or more miles must be one of the the triggers for regularization, the other being real improvements in entry/exit visa security.

National security conservatives will have a hard time voting no on such an offer, and the Gang of 8 have to realize that is what is needed: an offer that conservatives can’t refuse.  Right now –judging from my friends up north who have labored long and hard on behalf of the conservative cause for the more than a decade I have known and worked with them– conservatives aren’t buying what the Gang of Eight is selling.  This region is a true test market for the product, not D.C. or Manhattan, because it supports center-right Republicans like Tim Pawlenty and Norm Coleman, and thus far immigration reform looks like the New Coke of GOP initiatives.  Amendments can change the arc of the debate, but right now the bill will fail in the House, badly, because GOP Congressman like John Kline and Erik Paulson –two of the best of the House– will hear from the key influencers in their state that the bill is simply a bad, bad deal.

The challenge then is to make it a good deal, and the place to do that is on the border.  Senator Rubio should lead the effort and if it fails in the Senate, walk away, his reputation intact and in fact improved by having tried and failed.  If he succeeds he will have listened, responded and delivered.

More on today’s show from the Gopher State.




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