Obama’s Nuclear Weapon
By Nayyer Ali MD
In roughly three months President Obama is going to destroy the Republican Party as a national institution (it will be reduced to its Southern and Western rump). It all comes down to the trap he has laid for the Republicans on immigration. When the House refused to even take a vote on the Senate bill last year, it meant that no immigration reform would ever come out of Congress. This has freed Obama to take executive action, but he has had to wait till after the midterms before he unleashes the havoc about to come down.
Obama has already taken some steps via executive action. Before the 2012 election he began DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which basically said that undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children will no longer be subject to deportation and could lawfully work or attend university. When he did DACA via executive action it was at that time in response to Republican refusal to vote on the DREAM act, which freed him up to deal with the problem directly, and despite some carping on talk radio, the Republicans swallowed it. Even now their candidates run in terror when confronted on the campaign trail by DREAMers (children with undocumented status who often only can speak English and were raised in the US).
So around January or so, he is going to do the same thing for the rest of the undocumented. If you are here, have no criminal record, and want to work, he will stop deportations and allow work permits. This de facto legalization (but not amnesty, as they will not have green cards much less a path to citizenship) will be wildly popular with liberals and Latinos. As the economy is now generating strong job growth the average American will not see this as an economic threat. But it will drive the Republicans insane. They will have no choice but to completely oppose this at the level of every elected official, and it will include everyone running in the 2016 primary. This will be the death knell for the Republicans. Because Obama's executive action can be overturned by the next President, the 2016 election will pit a Democrat in favor of the policy continuing, and a Republican aggressively committed to reversing it. The Republican wipeout with Latinos will be epic, and will drag down every blue state Republican Senator and many Congressmen with it. This will be a bullet they can't dodge, because any Republican that refuses to condemn and oppose Obama will be primaried, and the 2016 Presidential nominee will have to explicitly vow to undo Obama's act in order to win the nomination.
The 2014 midterms won’t really alter this dynamic. If the Dems have held the Senate, Reid will bring the Senate bill back to the floor and either McConnell votes for it or he filibusters but regardless, Boehner can't allow it to see the light of day. If the Dems have lost the Senate, Obama just has to say put up or shut up, if you don't like my executive action, then the Republicans just need to send me a comprehensive immigration bill, which they can't possibly put together with the Ted Cruz Tea Party faction in charge of immigration. One more Presidential election that puts 70% or more Latino voters on the Dem side will consign the Republicans to permanent minority status, until an utterly changed Republican Party can take shape, but it may be it just limps on for another few decades representing the reactionary third of America but never holding the White House again, and losing the Supreme Court in the next decade as conservative Justices Scalia and Kennedy pass on and are replaced by liberals.
Actually, regardless of how the midterm elections turn out, Obama has had an extremely successful and consequential Presidency. When he came into office the economy was staring into the abyss of another Great Depression, while the country was embroiled in two unpopular wars, and all three big automakers were on the verge of bankruptcy. He not only dealt with those problems but achieved a Democratic goal of near-universal health insurance that has been impossible to achieve for despite 50 years of trying.
While the Republicans have been able to block him from any significant legislative goals for the last few years, and look set to continue that for the last two years of his Presidency, Obama still has the capacity to make history on his own. On top of dealing with the 10 million undocumented immigrants, he has major unfinished business in foreign policy, where he can act without Congressional legislation. I hope Obama has the courage to finally close Guantanomo Bay, and to reach a nuclear deal that restores normal relations with Iran. He can also put major pressure on Israel to achieve a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians, and he needs to fashion a good outcome of the Iraqi and Syrian conflicts.
Obama’s popularity is at a low point for the moment. But the economy is finally picking up speed, and the worst of the Great Recession is behind us. The country is no longer at war, and I expect that Obama’s popularity will rebound next year. Acting on immigration will be a major boost for him, and place the Republicans in an impossible bind that guarantees a crushing defeat in the 2016 election.