Immigration effort shows a president who is fighting back

November 20, 2014


Demographics is long. Politics is short. That’s what President Barack Obama is counting on with his executive action on immigration.

President Obama is risking what may be short-term political setbacks in order to create a legacy for himself and the Democratic Party. He is seeking to shore up lasting support among key Democratic constituencies.

The president and his party are counting on demographics. Demographics delivered a great Democratic victory in 2012. This year, however, politics trumped demographics, and the Democrats were done in.

Obama’s executive order on immigration — its details now largely leaked — is causing an immediate political backlash. The metaphors are multiplying!  Senate Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the president’s action is like “waving a red flag in front of a bull.”  House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) warned the president, “If you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself.” Mixing metaphors, Boehner accused Obama of “poisoning the well” of bipartisan cooperation for the remainder of his term.


Republicans in Congress are already planning retaliation. They’re threatening to cut spending for any program that enforces the president’s order. They’re threatening to hold up the federal budget for the remainder of this fiscal year. Or to pass it in little pieces, one month at a time, thereby forcing the White House into an endless, debilitating budget battle. Some hotheads — Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Representative Steven King (R-Iowa.) — are threatening to shut down the federal government again, even though the party leadership is warning them that a shutdown will blow up in their face, just as it did in 1995 and in 2013.

“You want to shut down the federal government?” Obama must be thinking. “Go ahead.  Make my day.”

The short-term politics is risky for another reason. Obama could further alienate public opinion. As it happens, the public supports comprehensive immigration reform. Even an eventual path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who qualify.

But the public may not be with the president on the executive order because it looks like a power grab. After all, didn’t they just vote to put Republicans in charge of Congress?

In the 2006 midterm during President George W. Bush’s second term, the opposite happened. There was a huge outpouring of anger over the war in Iraq. Voters threw the Republicans out of power in Congress and turned both houses over to the Democrats. And what did Bush do? He announced a “surge” two months after the election, ordering 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq.

Obama and his wife Michelle shake hands with attendees after remarks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's awards gala in Washington

The surge caused on outpouring of rage from Democrats. Bush was showing contempt for the will of the people. He was giving voters the middle finger! The same thing Obama is accused of doing now.

Interesting thing, though. Once U.S. troops got there, the violence in Iraq began to subside. Republicans insist the surge worked. The public’s view of the war in Iraq never turned around, but the diminishing violence did enable U.S. forces to withdraw.  By 2008, the Iraq issue had virtually disappeared from the political agenda.

Obama clearly expects the same thing to happen now. After the initial firestorm, people will see that his immigration policy is working. And, in the long run, Democrats will reap the political advantage of normalizing the status of the rapidly growing immigrant population. Maybe as soon as 2016, when the electorate will expand as it always does in a presidential year.

The immigration order is one of several moves the president has made since the election to show he is far from defeated. Just as 2006 was the Iraq election, 2014 was the “Nobama” election: a massive vote of no confidence in Obama. Republicans everywhere depicted their Democratic opponents as “Obama clones.”

The same thing happened to President Bill Clinton in the 1994 midterm, when Republicans ran “morphing” ads, showing the face of their Democratic opponents “morphing” into Clinton’s face. Republicans dared not do that this year because it might have triggered charges of racism.

For months after the Democrats’ crushing defeat in 1994, Clinton sulked. House Speaker Newt Gingrich acted as if he had taken over. There was that embarrassing moment at Clinton’s April 1995 press conference, when he had to plead, “The president is relevant here.”

The next day, the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed and Americans rediscovered just how relevant the president was.

Obama is not sulking. In fact, the midterm defeat seems to have given him new resolve. Obama went to China and came back with an agreement on climate change. China has, for the first time, committed itself to a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Critics of climate change can no longer use China’s unwillingness to act as an excuse for U.S. inaction.

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a town-hall meeting at Facebook headquarters with CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto

Now Obama looks about to issue an executive order halting the deportation of as many as five million illegal immigrants who would be forced to abandon their families. Obama may not get comprehensive immigration reform through Congress, but he has done what he believes he can do. He wants immigration and climate change to be the signature legacies of his second term.

Oh, and he also surprised everyone by coming out in favor of net neutrality.  Where did that come from? The president wants Internet providers to be regulated like public utilities. Republicans are crying foul. They hate government regulation.  Net neutrality is popular among tech savvy young people, however, who deserted the Democrats in droves in this month’s midterm.  The demographics of the issue are good.

And the politics? Instead of sulking in defeat, Obama is embracing climate change, immigration reform and net neutrality. Republicans are grumbling. The president’s response: “In your face!”



PHOTO (Top): Placards and campaign stickers sit on a table at the Latino regional headquarters for the Obama campaign during Election Day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Sara Stathas

PHOTO (Insert 1): President Barack Obama takes part in a town hall hosted by Univision at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

PHOTO (INSERT 2): President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle shake hands with attendees after remarks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s awards gala in Washington, September 14, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

PHOTO (INSERT 3): President Barack Obama attends a town-hall meeting at Facebook headquarters with CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto, April 20, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young


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Boehner should immediately call for a vote in the House on the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill. A year and a half have passed, the House GOP should do its job!

Posted by Leftcoastrocky | Report as abusive

GOP — Stop whining, and start legislating!

Posted by Leftcoastrocky | Report as abusive

We are ok with Mr. Obama giving illegal immigrants and their children protection and authorization to work legally. See the fact check below: claims-illegal-immigration-023052368–pol itics.html

We really expected that Mr. Obama would act as a president for all the immigrants, both who are here legally and illegally. But he is mulling options only for illegals and distributing Employment Authorization Documents only for illegal immigrants, that too free of cost or at subsidized rate. Is he against legal immigration?

People like us are waiting in the employment based immigration queue for more than a decade; paying highest bracket taxes as suggested by Mr. President; Every year paying more than 2000 USD in attorney fee for renewing EADs; What was our fault?

Why Mr. Obama expects Republicans to handle the legal immigration part and washing away his responsibility ?

Posted by hexazebra | Report as abusive

There is little doubt that Obama will be lauded by the Latino community. Perhaps a suitable tribute would be a nice statue erected right in the center of Mexico City cause there damn sure won’t be one put up in this country any time soon.

Posted by gpurdum | Report as abusive

Precedent set. At some future point a Republican president will be elected…now a fight for all the marbles. Will be interesting to see which laws they enforce and which they don’t. Watching history unfold in an amazing way…all I know is the US will change in more ways than we can currently imagine under an imperial presidency with unchecked power. This is a revolutionary game-changer in all senses of the term. If you think political division in the US is hostile today, that hostility will be magnified X times over in the future. “Third world” extreme political tactics are on their way…that is all we can really count on. For everyone who didn’t fight against an imperial presidency, you get what you deserve…in heaps and spades.

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive

There is something wrong with people coming into America illegally, and then they get rewarded for breaking the law. They do not deserve to be here, and it is shameful that the police do not have the guts to send them back.

Obama is going to make himself hated. He is already distrusted, and now this is worse. He has been a big disappointment, and it seems he bends the truth every time he opens his mouth. And those stage-managed briefings at the White House, along with the golf games, make him start to be repulsive. He is not taking the US in any kind of positive direction. He admitted before that he had no right to legislate from the White House. Now he is doing exactly that. I hope this backfires on him. He is not doing this for anyone other than himself because it sure is not good for the country. If anything, it is going to encourage more illegal immigration, more criminal elements coming into the country.

Posted by Cleveland2012 | Report as abusive


Obama has not set a precedent. George Washington was the first president to issue executive orders. He issued 8.

FDR issued 3,522

Ronald Reagan issued 381

Bill Clinton issued 364

GW Bush issued 291…

And now, Barrack Hussein Obama, the Great Usurper of Power and Not Naturally Born US Citizen, has issued 194, as of yesterday.

So give us all a break.

At best (from the whiners’ perspective) , a review by the Supreme Court could over-rule a single executive order.

Talk about impeaching a president because he issued executive orders is ludicrous. There is no basis and it will not fly. Also, it will guarantee that Democrats win the White House in 2016 and take back numerous seats in Congress.

Posted by LoveJoyOne | Report as abusive

Did Reuters sell out to Rupert Murdoch like the WSJ, or are they trying to entice him into it by acting like one of his rags?

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

Time for the GOP Congress to do their job and pass an immigration bill. The House had a year and a half and didn’t do anything. I think that the GOP would rather whine/complain/sue than step up to the plate and act as responsible legislators.

Posted by Leftcoastrocky | Report as abusive

I don’t think you guys in the media even know how to tell the truth any more. Same old garbage. The Democrats refuse to negotiate or compromise, then blame the Republicans if they hold to their beliefs. Of course the media takes the lead. The media is already setting the stage. No comments about the fact that Reid actually has kept the bills passed by the house from the senate floor! Why aren’t the Democrats accused of being obstructionists?
The media are Obama lap dogs. They even parrot his term “Immigration ‘REFORM(?)\'”. Really?! First of all, it’s about ILLEGAL immigrants, yet you obediently use the term “immigration” to give Obama’s illegal action legitimacy. In addition, how is amnesty reform? No, it’s an executive order giving amnesty to illegal immigrants. Why don’t you call it what it is instead of what Obama and the Democrats are telling you to call it? Any wonder Mexico loves this executive order? Obama has probably done more for Mexico than their own president. Too bad all he’s done here is mangle health care, increase the size of the government and stifled economic growth with regulations pandering to the special interests that bankrolled him!

Posted by beofaction | Report as abusive

This decision may be popular with a certain section of Hispanics but overall it does not have the support of a majority of US citizens including a good number of Hispanics that are gaining citizenship the right and legal way. This used to be a democratic society until the mentally deficient elected and emperor for president. Obama is a disgrace to the office of the presidency.

Posted by fedupaj | Report as abusive

It seems t me that all this “irate response” has more to do with our President outing the Speaker of the House as a man who is afraid of his OWN caucus and cannot control them..Boehner has had a bill for almost 15 months on his desk, from the Senate. Passed with the support of Senate Republicans..He knows it will pass the HOuse with Democrat votes…and fears reprisals for the Tea party…Courage is not Mr. Boehner’s skill…And the spotlight just got turned of him for all his stalling and broken promises. He earned that…….and deserves it.

Posted by JoplinMom | Report as abusive

Pls read top blog story Italian son US born ctzn still wait legal from 8y in bcklg list eam … Illegall can stay

Posted by MCardone | Report as abusive

With both chambers in rep hands we can expect to start seeing legislation begin hitting obama’s desk, it will be interesting to see if he vetos it. while a majority of people are for fixing the system the same majority said presidential fiat was the wrong way to do it.

Posted by rlm328 | Report as abusive

I wonder what the immigrants who are here LEGALLY think of this poke in the eye from the President…

Posted by UncaDanno | Report as abusive

@UncaDanno: As a naturalized U.S. citizen, I believe wholeheartedly that all people, including those less fortunate than myself, deserve to opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families than is possible where they were born.

Posted by WisteriaS | Report as abusive