In 2009, the promise of comprehensive immigration reform took a back seat to the economy and to Obamacare. Events would seem to indicate that history is poised to repeat itself, just days from the second Obama inaugural.
Remember when thousands of immigration activists hit the streets and 71% of Hispanics voted for President Obama due to…gun control? Once again, immigration reform takes a back seat to a lefty cause-celébre despite an explicit campaign promise and overwhelming Hispanic support in return. What’s worse, I’m beginning to suspect that this is by design.
In 2009, Obama and Congress shifted to Obamacare immediately after concluding work on the Stimulus and QE. That legislative battle galvanized what was, until then, a fractured and demoralized Republican opposition, and killed any chance of working on significant reform after the tea Party wave of 2010. Obama used the resulting gridlock and a renewed promise of reform to his advantage in 2012.
Fast forward to 2013, and we see the same tactics at work again. Obama’s approach to the Fiscal Cliff was reminiscent of 2009′s “I Won”, and the post-deal press conference proved it. After the Fiscal Cliff, the White House chooses to pivot to gun control, which will probably be as fractious -if not more so- than the Obamacare fight. At the same time, Obama chooses to nominate noted anti-Semite and Iran softie Chuck Hagel to Defense (rather than going with the obvious historic slam-dunk that is Michele Flournoy). Shortly thereafter, we will have to relitigate the sequester and the debt ceiling. After that, perhaps, debate on immigration reform may begin; and one wonders if this souring of the political climate isn’t intentional…a feature of the Obamite M.O. rather than a bug.
If there was any legislation with which to blitz a demoralized and fractured Republican Congressional delegation, it would surely be comprehensive immigration reform, with all its concomitant opportunities to rub the GOP’s nose in that gaudy 71% Hispanic vote total. What I see instead is an emerging pattern.
Here’s the play as I see it. By prioritizing antagonistic legislation, Obama looks to alienate GOP opposition prior to debating comprehensive immigration reform. Thus, any chance of meaningful legislation is scuttled and Obama gets to keep the issue as a red cape to wave before his activist base. I’ve heard people say that Obama has no further use for his base, but the 2014 midterms are a legacy election. Otherwise, why not dismantle or share the OFA machine after the election? But Obama must first goad the GOP into shutting him down before debate on immigration begins, so the racial grievance narrative can remain fresh for ’14 and beyond.
Whether I’m right or wrong, the House GOP would be well served to strike first on immigration, preferably with a standalone version of the DREAM Act. We’ve already seen how the movie ends otherwise.