Was Obama’s move brilliant?

In the face of furious hyperbolic opposition from the Republican party who warned him that he was threatening to undermine the very foundations of democracy in the US, president Obama has gone ahead with his plan to use his executive powers to temporarily spare anywhere from three to five million undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation for three years by offering them temporary legal status.

While Republicans have been threatening Armageddon if he carried out his promise to do so, others have argued that the reason that they were so determined to try and intimidate him from carrying out this move was because they realized that it would put them in a very bad position politically, because opposition to it and threatening to undo would further cement their reputation as the home for nativists, xenophobes, and racists.

Kevin Drum goes further and says that this was a brilliant political move on Obama’s part.

For what it’s worth, I think Obama deserves credit for an unusually brilliant political move here. Some of this is accidental: he would have announced his immigration plan earlier in the year if he hadn’t gotten pushback from red-state Democratic senators who didn’t want to deal with this during tough election battles. Still, he stuck to his guns after the midterm losses, and the result seems to be almost an unalloyed positive for his party.

The downside, after all, is minimal: the public says it’s mildly unhappy with Obama using an executive order to change immigration rules. But that’s a nothingburger. Outside of the Fox News set that’s already convinced Obama is a tyrant bent on shredding the Constitution, this simply isn’t something that resonates very strongly or for very long. It will be forgotten in a few weeks.

The upside, conversely, is potentially huge. Obama has, indeed, waved a red flag in front of congressional tea partiers, turning them into frothing lunatics who want to shut down the government and maybe even impeach him. This has already turned into a huge headache for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who really don’t want this to be the public face of the party. In addition, it’s quite possibly wrecked the Republican agenda for the next year, which is obviously just fine with Obama. And it’s likely to turn next year’s primary season into an anti-Hispanic free-for-all that does permanent damage to the GOP brand.

I have little feel for whether drum is right and how this will play out or how the Republicans will respond. In the short term, I think they will try to buy some time and say that they are going to hold off any action until the new Congress is sworn in. That will give them time to think of some response that will mollify their fired up base of angry supporters while not completely cutting their ties with the Latino community.


  1. Randy Lee says

    The rally cry. “Divide and conquer!”

    Didn’t Obama also take an oath to faithfullly execute the laws?

    Whether its party against party, race against race, or self interest against self interest, it’s always the same. Divide and conquer. What a douchebag! When Obama and his supporters pass a law such as Obama-care or whatever, they wants everybody to obey the same. But when it comes to Obama himself, He thinks himself above the law. Could his self-intersts or those of his party be at the root of this hypocrisy? Could it be that catering to persons and political ideals that are violative of present immigration law is thought to be good strategy for attracting new people to the Democratic Party? Just what sort of hypocrite voter does this law-breaker Obama hope to attract? More like those who placed him in power? Does he believe that he has a large pool of people with no morals nor ethics from which to attract more like-minded lawbreakers? Does he see humanity as hypocritical at their selfish core, and therefore he chooses to act as other Machievellian opportunists in the past have acted? Does he think there are even more self-interested hypocrites that will support this bold move?

    I bet he does. Aren’t you glad he thinks so highly of you?

  2. jufulu says

    @1 Randy Lee. What on earth are you going on about. Name a politician that isn’t doing what you are claiming the President is doing. There are people on school boards, city halls, state legislatures, judges and sheriffs that are doing everything you are railing about w/ President Obama. What is it about President Obama that you find especially egregious that sets him apart from everybody else? What he is doing is perfectly legal (immigration reform), it’s the same thing that previous Presidents have done. I’m in complete agreement that he has violated the law and the Constitution in many areas, by why are you focusing on just him? Additionally, I could easily just replace any references to Obama and Democrats w/ Republicans everywhere.

  3. OlliP says

    @Randy Lee #1
    If you want to talk about morals or ethics, why not open your eyes a little and look just a little bit beyond your backyard. I bet there are lots of middle eastern boys and girls who are afraid of playing outside under clear skies for fear of drones, who are super angry at some politician for making an immigration policy move. But totally find it ethical to kill random strangers in a foreign land. And another bunch who find it the hight of morality to overthrow a foreign government to gain access to oil and then leave the country in ruins and in the hands of warlords.
    Such a deep perspective on ethics you have…

  4. DonDueed says

    Randy Lee, the Presidential oath of office says nothing about executing the laws. Obama, like every other President, swore to execute the office of President of the United States. And like every other President, he has a certain amount of lattitude when it comes to the exact meaning of that phrase.

    In other words, by allowing certain immigrants to stay without fear of immediate deportation, he is upholding his oath of office as he understands it.

    What makes your rant more bitterly ironic is that Obama’s action implements many of the provisions of an immigration reform bill that passed the Senate and was likely to pass the House with bipartisan support, but the Republican leadership refused to bring to a floor vote. The reason? Politics! The GOP didn’t want to upset their Tea Party base.

  5. says

    I do think we’re all agreed that Obama’s decision does not stem from any moral consideration. That’s why I reserve the very cream of my contempt for politicians.

  6. md says

    And like every other President, he has a certain amount of lattitude when it comes to the exact meaning of that phrase.

    latitude in execution of law means the ability to withhold prosecution or arrest, I.e. the discretion not to prosecute, or to lower the charges on a borderline case. It is not the ability to grant new privileges to a criminal.

    So, staying of deportation is within the Presidents latitude, though unprecendented in scale. The granting of new privileges to criminals such as work permits, social security cards etc, is not within his latitude. All that said, though, is just nostalgia for an era of laws above men. That world is gone. The Republicans will find a way to roll over.

  7. Who Cares says

    It wouldn’t be in his latitude except for 1 tiny fact. The congress gave him this authority.

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