David: Anyway, I was hoping we could talk about immigration and immigration reform.
Gail: I have a sinking feeling this is going to be one of those conversations where we fail to disagree, which is so much less exciting. I don’t suppose you’d rather fight about Social Security again?
David: When I was a kid my grandfather drew me an ethnic map of his neighborhood. Some buildings were dominated by Finns, some by Norwegians, some by Germans. He made all sorts of ethnic distinctions that we don’t think to make today. When immigration works, ethnicity drops from the foreground to the background over time. It stops being a public destiny and starts being a private source of meaning.
Others disagree, but I think the current wave of immigration is going to end up working out like past waves, which is wonderful news for this country.
Gail: Obviously I agree. However, it’d be a lot easier for the newcomers to find the American dream if we could juice up the economy with some infrastructure spending and improve early childhood education. But that’s another economic fight, and I can tell you don’t want to go down that road right now.
David: I do worry about immigration reform, though. I think the proposal emerging in the Senate is a no-brainer. It increases high-skill immigration. It brings people out of the shadows. It’s got to be better than what we have. Is that your basic take?
Gail: Yes. Of course it took Mitt Romney getting drubbed in the Latino and Asian communities to get Republicans interested in the issue.
David: But I worry about the proposal’s prospects in Congress. If this were still the same old Republican Party of Reagan, then things would be fine. But the corporate wing is much weaker and the populist wing is much stronger. The struggle within the party for control is now playing out as a struggle over immigration policy. A few weeks ago I would have said the bill had a 70 percent chance of passage. Now I’m down to 50.
Gail: It’s been a long time since I gave a 50 percent chance to any piece of legislation larger than renaming a post office. I’d say 35 or 40 percent.
David: I must say I admire Marco Rubio’s role in all this. He’s taken a bold position. He’s really staked his political future on it. And he’s getting beaten up on the right. If he can hold the Gang of Eight together and then add about six or seven Republican Senators, then this thing has a chance.
Gail: On the other side of the picture, you have Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is currently trying to take the credit for destroying gun control while vowing to do the same thing to immigration reform. Cruz is a great example of how the Tea Party affects the Republican senators. Every six years during election season they’re in the right wing’s pocket. Witness John McCain. In 2005, he sponsored a similar immigration bill. In 2010 he was running for re-nomination against a Tea Party type, and suddenly he’s talking about illegal immigrants murdering people and running “complete the danged fence” ads.
But once they’re safely re-elected they remember how much they hate the Tea Party’s dogmatic craziness. Now McCain is back to the old mavericky 2000 version. That’s partly because he doesn’t have an election coming up. But I think he’s also been driven to the center by his loathing for Ted Cruz. You don’t often see such a combination of irritating personality, insane political convictions and total implacability in one so young.
So I think it’s very possible immigration reform will pass the Senate handily, if only because so many people are eager to disappoint Cruz and Company. But the real problem, on this as on so very many things, is the House of Representatives.
Surprisingly, though, the focus of modern fact checks is rarely what we 20th-century fact-checkers would have underlined as checkable facts. Instead, Web fact-checkers generally try to show how articles presented in earnest are actually self-parody. These acts of reclassifying journalism as parody or fiction — and setting off excerpts so they play as parody — resembles literary criticism more than it does traditional fact-checking.