Death of Amnesty Recap

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As the paper of record reports, the death of the amnesty bill represented the will of the American people:

The justifiably furious reaction of the American public, which deluged senators with telephone calls, e-mails and faxes, forced the Senate to reverse itself yesterday and send the amnesty bill crashing to defeat - a potentially fatal blow. It was a devastating setback for the Bush administration and its Democratic Party allies, in particular Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Ted Kennedy.

In addition to being an extraordinary substantive triumph for the American people, it was a huge victory for the conservative movement. Talkers such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and many others played an indispensable role in making available the research by the Heritage Foundation and NumbersUSA and analysis from editorial pages such as this one to tens of millions of Americans in a very short period of time. But ironically, by demonstrating in a powerful way its ability to reach and educate the public about the specific problems with the bill, talk radio has also made liberal politicians like Sen. Dianne Feinstein even more determined to revive the so-called Fairness Doctrine (the equal-time policy enforced by the Federal Communications Commission until it was eliminated in 1987 at the urging of President Reagan) in an effort to take away the one part of the mass media that conservatives dominate. On the final vote, virtually the entire conservative movement lined up against the bill. On the losing side were the leading Democratic presidential contenders — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - and the Bush administration, vividly demonstrating the political gap between the president and the conservative movement.

On Tuesday - just 48 hours before the legislative coalition supporting the bill crumbled - the bill appeared to have been given a new lease on life. Despite the abysmal poll ratings of the president and Congress, and the fact that barely one-quarter of the American public favored the bill, 64 senators (four more than needed) voted for cloture. This permitted Mr. Reid with White House support to bring the bill to the floor, together with a carefully selected group of amendments that amnesty advocates believed either 1) were unlikely to pass; or 2) if passed would not change the pro-amnesty thrust of the bill in a significant way; and 3) if necessary, could be stripped out of the legislation in conference.

Yet just 48 hours later, the amnesty coalition collapsed, and the 64 Senate supporters became just 46. What happened? As we noted above, talk radio proved that in modern times, it is indispensable for conservative political success. Much of the credit should also go to the bipartisan lobbying organization NumbersUSA, a powerful advocate for strengthening border security, which made it clear to members of Congress that they weren't buying the phony games some lawmakers wanted to play: proposing tough-sounding amendments that stood little chance of becoming law, while voting for cloture - and in effect for amnesty. The 18 senators who switched from supporting amnesty on Tuesday to opposing it yesterday are Democrats Jeff Bingaman, Sherrod Brown, Tom Harkin, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor and Jim Webb; and Republicans Kit Bond, Sam Brownback, Richard Burr, Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, Pete Domenici, John Ensign, Mitch McConnell, Lisa Murkowski, Ted Stevens, George Voinovich and John Warner.


A point I'd like to make is that the whole "talk radio" element might be overplayed. I never listen to any talk radio at all, and I think a lot of people are in the same boat. I think a lot of the information about the amnesty bill was circulated via the Web and e-mail.

What is significant about this is that Web and e-mail communications fall into the realm of "news" rather than "rabble rousing" which is the mainstream media framing of talk radio.

Really, in the end, the defeat of the amnesty bill was simply the result of wider distribution of information. Wire services delivered all the facts - we did not need Sean Hannity - and that is why the amnesty bill failed.

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2 Comments

ACTivist said:

Joe, there are a couple talk radio shows that I try to listen to on a daily basis. One show in particular will not let go of an issue that is being pressed for a vote. They both have national coverage and they both have high rankings for most listened to. These and many other shows have aggressively tauted for the people to take action and they give you the substance that needs to be acted on. There are a lot of venues, inclusive of word of mouth, that all have a part in the big picture and I think it wonderful that the word can "get out" thru all of them to reach the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time. The ones that seem to fail the most are the network news media and I don't even watch or listen to them anymore since their credibility was long ago shot.

Yes, I guess I am lucky not to spend much time in the car also. That would facilitate listening to much more talk radio.

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