Speaking of Trent Lott, Harold Meyerson has a good post at TAPPED today on the demise of the DREAM Act, the only piece of pro-immigrant legislation that had a dream of passing this year:
Fifty-two senators voted to end the [DREAM Act] filibuster -- 41 Democrats, 11 Republicans. Nor did all those Republicans come from the moderate wing of the party (there aren't 11 Republican moderates in the Senate). The list of Republican Dream Act supporters included not only Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Chuck Hagel, but also Sam Brownback, Larry Craig, Orrin Hatch, Kay Bailey Hutchison and, believe it or not, Trent Lott. Looked at with an unjaundiced eye, it's easy to understand why such a bill might appeal even to conservatives: After all, its chief effect is simply to declare that it's public policy to hold children harmless for the infractions of their parents, provided those children grow up to be responsible adults.
But this logic didn't seem to sway the eight Democrats who voted to kill the bill by filibuster. Some were up for re-election next year in socially conservative states -- Arkansas' David Pryor, Montana's Max Baucus, and embattled Mary Landrieu of what is the increasingly ethnically-cleansed Louisiana. Two had come to the Senate in narrow victories last year (and don't face voters for another five): Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana. And three -- Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad from North Dakota and Old Bobby Byrd from West Virginia -- are neither neophytes nor facing voters any time soon.
Harold is a little unfair to Pryor and Landrieu -- they face attacks from the right on this issue tougher than any an actual right-wing senator would get. (Democrat Niki Tsongas's recent scare from an anti-immigration Republican in a Massachusetts special election shows how potent an '08 matter this will be.) That doesn't excuse McCaskill, Tester, Conrad, etc. But Harold shouldn't be surprised by Trent Lott's pro-DREAM vote. I developed a soft spot for Lott while writing a story on his re-election to the leadership last fall: No matter how damning you think the racist props he gave to the late Strom Thurmond at the old fellow's birthday party were, it's hard to deny his resulting downfall gave Lott a feeling of liberation.
Back in the spring, Lott got as much flak as any Republican in favor of immigration reform did, thanks to his admonition to fellow Republicans to figure out if they are "men or mice" and his complaint, "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem." Of Republican immigration-compromise supporters, though, he's practically the only one who hasn't run screaming from his position thanks to the heat from the base. Former compromise leaders Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl can now be found complaining about immigrant crime and hawking extreme enforcement positions; Lott had the courage to put his stamp of approval on the DREAM Act. He doesn't seem to have -- or bother to exert -- much power among his colleagues on this one, which is too bad. But, at least on the individual level, there can be second acts.