Lame duck flies again
Like just about everything else in Washington today, how you feel about the President’s action on immigration depends on how you feel about the President. He has become the political touchstone for everyone.
Dislike him? You are likely to think it is a mistake for him to act without Congress, he doesn’t have or shouldn’t use the authority needed, and the Republicans in Congress should teach him a lesson by holding up confirmations or screwing with the budget, maybe even causing a government shutdown, suing the bastard or impeaching him.
Like him (as I do), you are likely to think it is a good move, both politically and administratively. We are never going to be able to deport five million people, the Congress has failed to act, and this move will solidify the Democrats’ link to the Hispanic and Asian communities. If Republicans don’t like it, they can up the ante in the next session, when they will have majorities in both houses.
So we are at loggerheads one more time. Unlike most others, I’m not prepared to bemoan that. It seems to me immigration is an important issue that should be subject to the full force of political contestation. Who is allowed into the country does determine who we are.
The outcome of the political debate is of course uncertain, but I am betting that the Republicans in Congress will up the ante. They cannot afford to have the Democrats walk off permanently with the lion’s share of Hispanic, Asian and Silicon Valley votes, as they did during the Roosevelt era with black votes.
A lot of people are going to be surprised if the Republicans turn around and offer a path to citizenship (which the President’s action will not). But it is their best political move, provided they can gather enough of their own party’s votes to back it. When you have lemons, make lemonade.
In the wake of the drubbing the Democrats got earlier this month in the mid-term election, it has become popular to pronounce their inevitable decline. I’ve been through too many cycles of that media trop with both parties to believe it likely true this time. But keeping the President and his views under wraps during the last election did nothing to help the Democrats stem the tide of Republican success. Getting him out front and firm about what he believes in and what he wants to do strikes me as more likely to fix the Democrats’ ailing fortunes.
Polarization may not produce the paralysis everyone expects. On immigration, Atlantic and Pacific trade, the response to the Islamic State, preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, engaging with China and other truly priority issues there are large measures of agreement and strong pressures for serious progress. A lame duck president is also a free-wheeling president. He did well in Asia last week. This week looks good too. The lame duck flies again.