I’m Still Mad at Sen. Tester’s DREAM Act Vote

by jhwygirl

I’ve slept on this two nights, and I’ve failed to find a moral or a logical reason for Tester’s vote, other than pandering for votes.

I guess I’m one of those idealistic ones who expects the people I vote for to do the right thing. Even when it’s tough.

A number of progressives here in Montana have written about Jon’s vote – Pogie at Intelligent Discontent, Matt at Left in the West, Wulfgar! and Jamee Greer at Left in the West too….and Shahid Haque-Hausrath, a Helena-based attorney and human rights activist.

I see Tester’s vote as unreasonable. It was a step towards reform. We’ve been told to accept steps on health care. We’ve been told to accept steps on financial reform. Compromise.

I thought this was compromise. A baby step towards reasonably and morally solving one little slice of the immigration issue.

Beyond that, I’m pretty much in line with the laments of Pogie and the disappointment of Jamee Greer. We all were working very hard in 2006 for Tester.

DREAM would have made citizens out of people brought here as minors. Children that did not have a choice and children that did not knowingly come here breaking the law.

DREAM made citizens of these people who came here as children providing they had clean records and a good grade average and hadn’t broken the law.

DREAM had nothing to do with so-called ‘anchor babies’ because – like it or not – those ‘anchor babies’ are legal citizens of the United States of America.

Now, if you want to call that amnesty – and I point to the fact that these are kids we’re talking about who had no choice – call it that. But it sure seemed fair to me.

I mean, what – punish the child for the ills of the parent? Really?

Sen. Tester issued a statement at 5 p.m. Friday, the eve before Saturday’s vote, saying he couldn’t vote for amnesty.

So the other reason I see his vote as utterly without logic is this: If Senator Tester’s position is “no amnesty” how, pray tell, do we meet his position? What is the end-game to that position? Deportation of all undocumented immigrants? How are we going to do that? More importantly, how are we going to fund it?

And think about it – Exactly what kind of government does it require to round up all these illegal people? Are you going to go door to door? Am I going to have to carry citizenship papers with me at all times?

I mean, really? What is the end-game of a “no amnesty” position?

Tester’s vote is extremely disheartening for me…especially from what I read outside of the Montana blogosphere – “burn in hell”? “bigot”? Those words cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

As for my part, I’ve taken a number of criticisms just for posting kos’ response to Tester’s vote (a post, btw, which mentioned Baucus). As I started out above – I’ve slept on this two nights trying to see a reasonable side to this vote and I’ve yet to find it.

Do I make Jon an adversary by being so upset about this vote? I would certainly hope not – and I would hope he thought the same when he cast his NO vote knowing I and a whole bunch of others here in Montana and elsewhere would think it was a shitty thing to do.

If anything, the cynic is me says that there’s a part of him that’s giving me a tip o’ the hat for giving him some street cred with the voting xenophobes of Montana. I mean – consider the value kos got him over at Electric City Weblog.


  1. lizard19

    because breaking ranks is not even a thought in the mind of many of the automatons on the right, this kind of principled anger jon is getting right now from some of his most ardent supporters simply translates to the dittoheads as weakness.

    the wolves on the right smell blood, and tools like cowgirl (no link–seek out that crap yourself if you want to read it) make sure to remind everyone of that glaring fact.

    but for jon it may turn out to be good politics, and really that’s what’s wrong with politics. it’s perpetually the short-sighted next election cycle thinking that seems to devolve a rhetorically potent candidate to a practically disappointing tool of a broken political system.

    and that’s what jon is.

  2. i guess i am just tired of being mad any more. doesn’t seem to do much good anyway.

    bill moyer said something today on alternative radio about this….(paraphrasing)

    voters are just raw materials used by those in power to further their own aims.

    plutocracy left unchecked by democracy eventually capitalizes everything until all we have left is government by the highest bidder.

    we have established that most of our politicians are prostitutes. now we are simply haggling over the price.

  3. “…voting xenophobes of Montana”? More than just a little bit of “hyperbolating”.

  4. I’m disappointed too. But I found RK’s post at LiTW to cover a pretty important point: it’s not calculation on his part, but a point of principle for him upon which we would have disagreed from the very beginning. OK, well I don’t expect to agree with anyone — not my wife, not even myself — on every single thing. So the question is whether it’s a dealbreaker. There are going to be people for whom it is, and I can respect that. We all have dealbreakers. DREAM isn’t one for me.

    The people for whom it is a dealbreaker still have to decide what that means to them. The notion that someone might be found who would (a) run against Tester in a primary; (b) be likely to beat him; (c) be more likely than Tester to win the general; and (d) agree on more progressive dealbreakers than Tester has or would — and you have to have all four — strikes me as a pipe dream. That leaves (i) decide it isn’t really a dealbreaker; (ii) sit the race out; or (iii) campaign for the Republican (which is what campaigning against Tester is, in the absence of an actually viable more progressive alternative, of which there is none).

    I suppose there’s a fourth alternative as well, and this one is available to people for whom DREAM is not a dealbreaker: see if there isn’t a way to tighten DREAM so that his vote might be had. Maybe RK is right, and Tester is just dead set against relaxing the rules for anyone here unlawfully. Maybe, though, a proposal that more explicitly meets the objections of those who argue that adjusting the children improves the chances of the parents can get his support.

    This latter point obviously runs aground if one expects that no bill of any kind can get through the House in 2011. In that case, it’s just as well to point out that with Pryor’s vote, DREAM wasn’t going to get out of the Senate in 2010 either.

    • Matt Singer

      There’s a big BOTH / AND strategy here, once we can accept that Tester is wrong. Work for his re-elect because he is much better than the alternatives AND push him to be better on this stuff.

      The sad reality is that in a country with 300 million people, the power of virtually all individuals is fairly marginal. Even the President’s power is finite. Individual Senators have more say than most of us, but their hands are tied.

      It’s like that scene in the beginning of Grapes of Wrath where the farmer whose house is being foreclosed by the bank asks, “Who am I supposed to shoot?” In a democracy, maybe we’re supposed to shoot ourselves…

      Charley, thanks for gaming it out. My case has never been to say that people shouldn’t be upset or even angry over this vote. It is that treating a friend like an enemy is a mistake. Jon’s a friend. He screwed up. When friends screw up, you give ’em some tough love. You don’t write ’em off.

      • And what, pray tell is “tough love”? I don’t think you understand the concept. It entails suffering. Politicians understand sticks, and eat carrots for lunch. The whole of the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party is so afraid of losing, of sitting out, that they reward betrayal with reelection.

        And then comes the part where you and others step in and tell us that defeat is really victory.

        Politicians know they don’t have to listen to progressives precisely because of this behavior. No matter how bad they behave, you always support them.

        That is, to put it mildly, a weak sauce of a strategy, served up every time a Democrat betrays his base. It’s why I cannot be a Democrat. Too demeaning.

      • I must add here that I was surprised to read your words, that you understand that the American public has been marginalized by corporate power, and that office holders can’t really do anything once elected. That is indeed frustrating. But I think that the proper response is to shed illusions, and not to waste away in party politics. It’s pointless.

    • Missoula Gal

      I think this is right. Isn’t it OUR job to build the base of voters (not immigrants, but activists) who have the power to make this pass. How is this Tester’s job. It’s his job to listen to voters. Our voice isn’t loud enough. If we can’t make it louder, it’s our problem, and we’re always going to fail. The notion that we have someone to primary him is truly a pipedream. Our crop of lesser candidates is not up to the task. They are going to have a tough job getting re-elected. Some of them will fail. Let’s do our best to build a base. It won’t happen overnight, but we can do it in time.

  5. It’s not an easy issue here. Where is your line (not j-girl, but everyone)? If voting against innocent kids is enough to make you turn away from Tester, then do so. The great part of our democracy is that we don’t have to vote for people who marginalize our beliefs–or vote at all.

    Missoula is an island. We need to deal with that. We’re a blue island afloat in red. So, Jon pandered to the sea as he had (only moments before) pandered to the island with his DADT vote. Anyone not calling it pandering is deliberately burying their head in the sand.

    Tester’s pandering to that sea hurts because we were all so goddamn happy to vote out Conrad Burns. I think we probably need to see connections between Tester and Obama: we hated Burns so we voted for Tester (overlooking some obvious warts); we hated Bush, so we voted for Obama (apparently believing we were voting for a reformer).

    That’s why we’re so mad right now. We voted for people JUST LIKE US who, it turns out, are NOTHING LIKE US.

    And j-girl, to answer your question about how we’ll pay for the mass deportation: we’ll do the American thing, we’ll use cheap, illegal, Hispanic/Latino labor. And then we’ll build Bush’s freedom fence!

    • BTW – duganz – you are connecting most of the dots, but not all of them –

      DADT was going to pass with a supermajority, so Tester faced no political peril for voting for it.

      For the next two years, he’s going to be a ‘Max’ and pander to the ‘ocean’ as much as he can, and he isn’t afraid of the reaction of the far-left, because he accurately believes that the Montana Dems don’t have the will to run a challenger at him, no matter how much he torques you off now.

      When you figure out the Dems, you are welcome to join the GOP –

      • Sorry Eric. I’m a pro-gay, pro-Mexican, pro-single-payer, pro-peace, pro-freedom atheist. Your party doesn’t like my kind (not that the Dems like me either).

      • petetalbot

        I don’t think it’s that simple, Eric. Tester voted for ending DADT because he knew it was the right thing to do. This I know as fact. I can’t explain his vote against DREAM but, knowing his Montanan constituency as I do, I’m sure he’ll face just as much “political peril” voting to end DADT as he will voting against DREAM.

      • Again, Eric, I find myself in complete agreement with you. It’s an odd position, as I once felt that you knew very little of politics. Here you are, one of the few who post here who actually gets it.

        Shall we have a beer some time? Since I’m a socialist, I of course expect you to work very hard to earn some money to pay for it. I want a handout.

  6. Jamee Greer

    Agreed, JHWYGirl.

    It is frustrating to see a person who would not have had the direct benefits from enacting DREAM seem to seek blame for folks who have the most to lose from its not passing: the immigrant community. Once again, a cadre of loyalists are confusing access with influence – and fail to recognize that Senators are Senators: we do not work for them, they are supposed to work for, and represent, us.

  7. Matthew Koehler

    And I’m still mad at Senator Tester and his staff for their behavior and actions during the entire Forest Jobs and Recreation Act fiasco over the past 18 months.

    Could there be a pattern here with Senator Tester and his staff that also relates to what progressive immigration reform and social justice advocates found? Or what the peace community found with his votes to continue funding the wars? Or support for extending Bush’s tax cuts?

    For example, over the past two year many, many Montanans of all different stripes – as well as Americans – have expressed serious, substantive concerns with Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA). Concerns have ranged from the mandated minimum logging levels, motors and other incompatible uses in designated Wilderness, negative impacts to Forest Service budgets in our region and turning some wildlands and Wilderness Study Areas into permanent motorized recreation areas. These serious concerns are a major reason why the Tester’s bill never made it out of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, never made it to the floor of the US Senate and never was introduced in the US House.

    But Senator Tester and his staff were never interested in honestly listening to these any of these concerns or open to making the needed changes to his bill. In fact, they honestly were never even forced to acknowledge, much less address, these substantive concerns. Nope, they simply circled the wagons with the hand-full of their “collaborators” and continued plodding along like preverible bull in the china shop. Heck, just look back at the actual TV coverage of the US Senate Hearing for the FJRA and take a good hard look at Senator Tester’s actions at that hearing. He didn’t want to talk about any of the substaintive concerns with his bill, brought forward by the US Forest Service, Beaverhead County Commissioners or our Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign (which spoke on behalf of over 50 conservation groups from Montana and around the country). Nope. He just wanted to shoot the messenger. NewWest.net summed it up pretty well in their article: “What Tester’s Outburst Tells Us: Mean-spirited, personal attack at congressional hearing completely out of line, especially coming from a member of the U.S. Senate (http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/what_testers_outburst_tells_us/C41/L41).

    So, in recent weeks Senator Tester worked behind the scenes to attach his bill as a rider to a completely unrelated $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that ran 2000 pages long. It’s unfortunate that Senator Tester chose such a course, but I’m certainly glad that the entire omnibus spending bill was pulled from the Senate floor late last week, as Tester’s logging bill wasn’t the only pork-filled rider/earmark glued onto that bill at the 11th hour by senators of both political parties. And now we have some of the “collaborators” in our community, speaking out in support of Senator Tester’s rider tactic? Again, where is the accountability? How in the world can anyone in the “progressive” community support 11th hour riders of questionable policy attached to unrelated Trillion dollar spending bills?

    So, if Senator Tester and his staff are going to resort to such tactics, does it really matter if the progressive community works a little harder? I mean, seems like that’s what I’m hearing here and with some comments over at LiTW. It’s the activists’ fault. The activists just need to work harder and the progressive community should not take Senator Tester to task and try and hold him and his staff accountable when they cast votes or try and craft public policy that falls far outside the realm of “progressive.” Because what? We need him to vote for more Bush tax cuts? Or against immigration reform? I just fail to understand this reasoning.

    • CharleyCarp

      It wouldn’t have bothered me in the least if Reid had attached the DREAM Act to the omnibus. Somewhere there are activists pissed that he didn’t.

      On FJRA, you won. Accept victory. You won’t have to worry about this bill coming around in the next Congress. You might have to fight off one that is far worse, but that was always in the cards.

      On the tax cuts, once the under 250k option was defeated, this is the best deal Obama could get. Arguably better, on both politic and policy, than the obvious alternative: letting all cuts expire, and then being faced with the Boehner Tax Cuts, which would be Bush tax cuts that (a) are permanent and (b) not accompanied by extension of unemployment. You really like that deal better? Or you expect Obama and Tester to go into 2012 bearing the Walter Mondale banner?

      • CharleyCarp

        (And on FJRA, it really is your victory, not just some kind of luck. Putting the bill in the omnibus was a Hail Mary play, not a strong arm, made necessary because you beat him in committee.)

    • Hey Matt – thanks to you and your fellow activists – you beat back Tester and the timber industry on the FJRA. You went about your work with calm diligence, facts at hand, and won an important victory for Montana wildlands.

      It’s called “community organizing.” It has do be done in spite of Democrats, and not through them.

      Merry Christmas, and Happy Festivus!

      • i’ll drink to that.

        may the ghost of conrad burns and his poorly crafted and handled bill (pulled out of the garbage and dusted off by tester) now rest in eternal peace.

  8. petetalbot

    Something that has been bothering me and relates, to a degree, to the post and comments above. I’ve seen many complaints about Tester and Obama throwing their base (progressives who worked hard on their campaigns) under the bus. Tester and Obama just aren’t fighting hard enough to pass the progressive issues we thought they’d advance when we worked our asses off to get them elected, say the critics.

    I’m not seeing the same divisions in the Republican Party. In other words, you don’t see mainstream Republican leadership dissing its far-right wing (read Tea Party). On the contrary, radical right-wing freshmen are getting leadership positions and choice committee assignments in Congress. Really, except for a few instances, establishment Republicans are rolling over like two-dollar whores for the far-right.

    Just an observation but would gladly entertain anyone’s explanation for this. I mean, which party is doing the smart thing here?

    • lizard19

      you won’t see these divisions because their hatred of liberals unifies them perpetually against any inconsistencies their own elected asshats may provide.

      for example, fiscal conservatives will never criticize two wars being put on the national credit card and they won’t ever acknowledge how fiscally irresponsible the bush tax cuts have been, and will continue to be.

      and those smaller federal government types will never acknowledge how the department of homeland security was a massive expansion of federal government.

      and don’t forget the liberty lovers who didn’t blink twice when bush attacked civil liberties with abuses like warrantless wiretapping.

      no, they stay on message. they bark on command. and if fox news and rush aren’t telling them what to think and repeat at the water cooler, they’re lost.

      there are of course exceptions, but when it comes down to the party game, they will always circle the wagons. it’s impressive, really, because it requires a level of denial that boggles my mind.

  9. You know the answer to it already Pete.

    Prolonged civil war inside a party is NOT a good idea.

  10. Turner

    Tester’s pandering to the right (i.e., the ignorant, the bigotted) is probably necessary for him to stand any chance of getting re-elected.

    I saw a crawl on TV this morning saying that 78% of Americans “doubt” evolution. Leaving aside the irony in the question that was must’ve been asked (after all, scientists themselves should “doubt” evolution as they doubt all hypotheses) this is pretty damning.

    The American people are a whole lot dumber than most of us think. And Montanans are just as dumb as any other Americans.

  11. Evolution is not a hypothesis. It’s a theory, and one that has been proven to most people through fossil analysis, DNA analysis, and constant study. The magnitude of work done that supports evolution is staggering, while the work supporting anything but is mostly anti-science drivel. To say scientists should doubt evolution is to say physicists should doubt gravity.

    • Turner

      I stand corrected. Yes, it is a theory with overwhelming evidence to support it. I wasn’t suggesting that scientists should “doubt” it in the ordinary sense of the word. I meant that scientists should remain skeptical of virtually everything, even theories that are virtually irrefutable.

      My point was that our country has become almost dangerously stupid.

      • Well, I may have been a bit too harsh Turner after reading that stat concerning 78percent of Americans believing the world is flat, and that the sun orbits it. So I apologies because I know you weren’t voicing opposition to evolution and science.

        Skepticism is needed more than ever, and I’m glad to see your support of it.

  12. Quest

    I think we need to ask and wait for an answer from Sen. Tester as to WHY he voted this way. What about “amnesty” doesn’t he like? What other option is there? What does he see to be the answer and why does he not agree with the President about this?

    I also agree to what Pete said…I might not like Sen. Tester’s vote, but I’m not throwing him off the bus. Same with the President. I’m sure to not agree with any of these folks all the time, but I voted for them, I’m supportive of them and I’ll keep up the support and fight because that’s what I’d want from the people if I was in office.

    • “…I’m supportive of them and I’ll keep up the support and fight because that’s what I’d want from the people if I was in office.”

      Goodnight democracy.

  13. mr benson

    I wrote and thanked him for his vote. When the Congress puts forth a bill that defends the borders; when amnesty becomes the exception, then I think more people will support selective amnesty for exceptional contributions like military service or sterling academic record.

    As for who ya gonna call, I hear Dennis MacDonald still has his ass on a rope waiting for your call.

    • lizard19

      and why do we have to “defend our borders”?

      i would offer two contributing factors: the American appetite for drugs, and NAFTA.

      as an aside, i wonder where Tester’s family immigrated from, or if that even matters.

    • The Polish Wolf

      Easier solution – make NAFTA more like the EU. Let people move the same way we let capital and goods move. Mexico is only about $2,000 per capita behind Poland, the poorest country in the Shengen zone. Romania is poorer than Mexico and it is already part of the EU and is expected to join the Shengen zone in the future. If it works in Europe, why can’t it work here? Obviously we may need to make some adjustments for our own situation, but allowing capital to move without allowing labor makes no sense, and our current immigration circumstance is a result of it. Mr. Benson, in past comments I seem to you remember showing some understanding of market forces. This is them at work.

  14. Damn, a fine analysis by Charley, and a great point- Tester didn’t really sell out, he never agreed with us on this point in general. Because really, how many Montanans do?

    All I can hope to add is to answer the question – what is the endgame of no amnesty? The answer isn’t widespread deportation, if only because that is certainly not what the corporations want, either. It is the persistence of an illegal population of relatively stable size. Why relatively stable? Because thanks to America’s good sense in passing the 14th amendment, families are illegal for at most two generations – they may bring their children here, but their grandchildren will be citizens. Amnesty, as it were, skips a generation. Since most illegal immigrants end up having children or grand children who are citizens, they remain connected to legal American society in a way that discourages perpetual enclaves and strengthens national unity. Sadly, it is not easy for an American citizen to get citizenship for their non-citizen relatives.

    This isn’t to say that the situation is good – it ensures that there will always be a generation of immigrants being exploited, millions of people working in America without paying income tax, and lower labor costs for the least ethical businesses, and the only real benefit? We feel good about taking a stand against lawbreakers. But as bad of a system as this is, it is self-sustaining. Now if the 14th amendment were changed, then we would have a real problem.

  15. i am sure that being in the senate isn’t much different from the pecking order of any school ground in america. if you don’t play along you are soon ostracized and never invited to join in on the important groups.

    anyone caught acting idealistically is soon singled out for exclusion to the club. it makes the corrupt club look bad.

  16. Ingemar Johansson

    Out of town and missed all this fun.

    At least Jon should’ve thrown down a twenty on your night stand when he left.

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