Get Me More Sarah Palin!

Hello! I've been blogging at "" for a while--first on my own, then for, and now, starting with this post, for Newsweek. A few introductory notes that may or may not be useful:

--I can't very well pose as a neutral journalist since I recently ran for office as a Democrat. I don't have opinions or "biases." I have a platform. It's here. I got 5% of the vote in the primary against incumbent Sen. Boxer, which was maybe a bit better than expected (though between you and me I expected to do better than better than expected). I may have been the only candidate in America who failed to ride the wave of anti-establishment anger to victory.

--I've often been accused of spending more time and energy criticizing my fellow Democrats than criticizing Republicans. This charge is completely ... accurate. So sue me. There are plenty of other bloggers singlemindedly bashing the Republicans.

--Usually I write about what I care about, which is a weakness but I think also a strength. I don't cover the waterfront. But I will try not to waste your time if I don't think I have something to add.

--kausfiles on Newsweek won't be quite the same as kausfiles on Slate. My early New Year's resolution is to be a lot more interactive (e.g. responding to comments), a bit less insidery, and a lot more Instapundit-y--emulating the wildly popular Tennessee blogger who posts lots of short links to worthy articles by others. Please let me know how I'm doing.

-- My informal quota is three items a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but averaging out to at least 15 a week. My editors may regard it as less informal than I do, but that's the plan.

--One danger, when you're writing lots of quick, opinionated blog items about the latest developments, is that you never get around to stating fully, in one place, what you think about a particular topic. Or if you do, it soon disappears, pushed downstream in the ongoing river of fragmented snark. My editors at Slate wanted me to publish a glossary of sorts, putting all the fragments together on various topics Good idea! I never got around to it. But for starters, here is my best attempt to say what I think about the subject of today's third item, immigration reform.

--What works on the web seems to be some combination of reporting and opinion that's personal, adversarial and introspective. You make a lot of enemies, and then the politics shift and suddenly they're your allies.** As a byproduct of this defriending and refriending process, I hope, readers get what they need to make up their own minds.

** Some of them, anyway. ... 12:46 P.M.


Briar Patch: Few things are more exciting than being lectured by a Mark Halperin "memo"! Today, Halperin admonishes the "coastal elites" to stop belittling the strength of Sarah Palin in the 2012 Presidential race. Gee, it seems like only last Friday Halperin was, in coastal elite fashion, authoritatively chiding Republican leaders for "catering to the Tea Party" and "alienating the center of the electorate" (by, for example, opposing the stimulus bill, which was 52/43 unpopular last time I checked).

Halperin's latest piece seems like a make up call, designed to show he's not a Beltway-centric snob. Also, it will get lots of hits. Write anything about Sarah Palin on the web and it gets lots of hits. As Slate's Dave Weigel has pointed out, this is a key source of Palin's power: the press will cover everything she does three times over because they desperately need the Web traffic (and ad sales) she generates. Try that with Tim Pawlenty and see where it gets you. Maybe Gawker's Nick Denton demands "More Lady Gaga"--but at political web sites they demand "More Sarah Palin." So when Halperin declares "Attn. Media and Politicans: It's All About Palin," he isn't iconoclastically telling the media establishment to shift course. He's telling them to do what they want to do and are already doing. ... 12:50 P.M.


Why There Is No Immigration Reform: "Comprehensive immigration reform" as it's called by its proponents, pursues two basic policies at once: 1) tougher border enforcement to keep illegal immigrants from getting in; 2) some form of legalization or conditional amnesty for the 11 million or so illegals who are already in. A savvy friend of mine--let's call him L--pointed out recently that it's been clear for decades that the way to actually accomplish both these goals would be to pursue them not simultaneously but in a two stage process.

Step One, the enforcement measures (e.g. a border fence, a national system verifying the legality of all newly-hired workers, sanctions against employers who skirt the law, etc.). That would convince the public that now we finally mean business, and that any amnesty wouldn't simply be followed by another wave of illegal immigrants--because they couldn't get in.

Step Two, the amnesty, which wouldn't simply set the stage for another amnesty, thanks to Step One.

Why hasn't this obvious two-step plan been pursued? If it had been pursued, consistently, over the past decade, legalizers would have their amnesty by now. The answer must be that the "reformers" do not want one of the two steps. My friend "L" suggests that the politicians who say they're reformers don't really want Step Two, the amnesty. They want the prospect of a future amnesty to dangle as a carrot in front of Latino voters. If they ever actually achieved that amnesty, the carrot would be gone.

But, for the non-cynical pro-legalization reformers, it has to be that they don't really want Step One, greater enforcement. Why not? If you've ever been to an immigration reform rally, you know that the movement is propelled in large part, by Latino ethnic solidarity. The first pro-reform rally I attended, in 2006, featured hundreds of Mexican flags. The last one, in DC this year, was conducted at least 50% in Spanish. No non-Latino immigrant groups were in evidence. A Step One policy that was actually effective in keeping out millions of worthy, job-seeking Latinos is simply more ethnic self-abnegation than this movement can stomach, even if it's the essential precondition for legalization.

Many voters, even those who approve of both steps, sense this logic--it's almost a proof--and therefore don't trust reformers to keep the "enforcement" half of the "comprehensive bargain." That distrust makes voters insist even more strongly that Step One come first--and that it precede Step Two by a significant period of time (years, not months) to make sure it sticks. This of course makes Step One even less palatable to the reformers, of course--which in turn magnifies voter distrust, increasing their insistence on "enforcement first," which in turn ... etc., etc.

It's a cycle spiraling away from compromise rather than towards it. That's why we're unlikely to have a sweeping immigration reform anytime soon. ...

Update: Mark Krikorian argues there is a "third, less-discussed element: colossal increases in legal immigration" included in the everything-at-once "comprehensive" bill. Would the ethnocentric lobbyists and labor-seeking businesses who support that bill sign off on a two-step approach--that is, actually support enforcement measures--if Step One included that large increase in the legal immigrant quota? Sure, if the increase were large enough-- it would then have the effect of legalizing most immigration and leaving the enforcers with nothing to enforce. But if the quotas were set at any reasonable level (designed to enable assimlation and prevent a flooding of the unskilled labor market) and blocked large numbers of willing immigrants, I suspect the answer for the Latino lobby would be "no." But buying Latino support for "enforcement first" with a quota increase does seem like the most promising route to a sincere legislative compromise. ... 12:52 P.M.