The Audacity of the Last Two Years

The president is going ahead with his long-threatened executive action on illegal immigration, and it’s going to be awful. Amnesty under any name for millions of illegal immigrants will only encourage millions more to flood an already glutted unskilled labor market and further burden already strained education and welfare and penal institutions, doing it by executive action will further weaken already tenuous constitutional restraints on presidential power, and if it works as the president plans it will sign up several million more voters for the rest of his awful transformative agenda.
Even with newly elected majorities in both chambers of Congress the Republicans are unlikely to be able to do anything about it, and we are not confident that the courts will even attempt to offer any relief, so our only consolation is that the president’s already low level of popularity will further decline. Not that he cares, having entered the what-the-hell portion of presidency when he can at last unleash his inner radical and stop pretending to care what the squares think, but we can hope that the disrepute he is bringing to liberalism will pay some dividends down the road. The president might think that he can sell his disastrous ends and unconstitutional means to a gullible public, given his unaccountable yet undying faith in his rhetorical skills and the undeniable evidence of the public’s gullibility in that past two presidential contests, but he’s likely to have no more success than he did with Obamacare or the mid-term Democratic candidates or any of his numerous other lost causes.
One needn’t consult the many public opinion polls to know that there is no great clamoring in America for millions more illiterate, unskilled, non-English-speaking refugees from the most dysfunctional neighborhoods of the Third World, nor for a Philosopher-King form of government. These ideas have a certain appeal to an unlikely coalition of rich businessmen with an economic interest in keeping lower-tier wages low, socialistic types whose championing of the poor brown folk serves their heroic self-images, and Latinos whose sense of racial solidarity supersedes their more patriotic impulses, but they comprise a distinct minority of Americans. The rest of the country, including most of the blacks and many of the Latinos who have been such reliable Democratic voters, are more concerned about the lower wages and higher social costs and cultural frictions that are bound to be exacerbated by the president’s action.
Back when the president was obliged to pretend to care what the squares think, he admitted “Not all these fears are irrational.” In that awful “Audacity of Hope” book that launched his first presidential campaign, he also wrote “The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen in this country for over a century. If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefit for the economy as a whole — especially by keeping our workforce young, in contrast to an increasingly geriatric Europe and Japan — it also threatens to further depress the wages of blue collar workers and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.” He also wrote “There’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our southern border — a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before.” The oh-so-cosmpolitan president even acknowledged those inevitable cultural frictions we mentioned, writing that “Native-born Americans suspect that it is they, and not the immigrant, who are being forced to adapt. And if I’m honest with myself, I must admit that I’m not entirely immune to such nativist sentiments. When I see Mexican flags waved at a pro-immigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”
Then again, the president has also stated on numerous occasions that he has no constitutional authority to take the actions that he will announce tonight. He has apparently changed his mind, as we are certain that the constitution has not changed, but he will have some difficulty refuting his more sensible past arguments.
He can count on some help from the press, judging by an ABC news radio report we just heard that led with the dubious claim that the president would be acting “as past Republican presidents have,” and NBC’s embarrassed insistence that its own polling a sizable number of skeptical Latinos was not reliable, but there have already been some notable defections from the ranks. The New York Times has noted the president’s previous interpretation of his constitutional powers, The Washington Post has acknowledged the planned executive action would “expand the authority of the executive branch into murky, uncharted water,” USA Today was openly skeptical of the president’s claim that this “position hasn’t changed,” and the Associated Press has reminded its readers that a referendum to deny drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants passed by a 68-to-32 margin even in such a hippie-dippy state as Oregon. Local media will eventually be obliged to report on the budget crises at the local welfare agencies and the scuffles at the local schools and the rest of the local problems that will be too glaring to ignore without losing the last shreds of credibility, and even the most blissfully uninformed will be reading their paychecks.
There might also some be defections from the Democratic ranks in Congress. The Huffington Post reported that soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urged the president to wait until December in vain hopes of some congressional solution that he might concoct the before the Republican majority is installed, then reported that he apparently figured out that the existing House majority had been the roadblock all along and was urging the president to “go big,” and we suspect a similar ambivalence among the rest of his recently-shellacked Democratic party. The thought of those additional votes is surely tempting, and there’s also the financial support of those rich businessmen with an economic interest in keeping wages low, as well the temptingly heroic-self image of being a champion of poor brown folk, but those votes might not make it to the polls for several years and in the meantime they’ve surely seen the polls and heard the deafening lack of clamoring for millions more illiterate, unskilled, non-English-speaking immigrants from the most dysfunctional neighborhoods of the Third World. Party loyalty will probably prevail, as the Democrats are a remarkably disciplined lot, but we can hope that a few Representatives and maybe a Senator from the more sensible portions of the country will panic and jump ship.
A few Democrats broke ranks over the wildly popular XL Keystone Pipeline project, most notably Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu in a desperate bid to stave off the wrath of her voters in a run-off election, but not enough to get the necessary lame-duck super-majority, so when the bill passes overwhelmingly in the first days of the next Congress the president will assume all the public’s wrath with his veto. Recent remarks by an irksome professor and upcoming rate increases will make poll-tested reforms in Obamacare all the more popular, and the president’s inevitable vetoes will be correspondingly unpopular. Failure to ratify a lousy treaty with the Iranians will also prove popular, joint investigations made possible the Republican majorities can easily come up with some damaging revelations about the Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi and any number of other scandals, and absent any Republican overreach or excessive caution or other missteps it’s hard to see anything on the horizon that redounds to the president’s political benefit. At some point, every Democrat contending for any office with have to come up with a pitch that they’re somehow different from the president.
That pitch has to be carefully worded so as not to offend the president’s die-hard faithful, which denies the Democrats the pleasures and political benefits of the full-throated denunciations that every Republican candidate will be shouting, but at least it will also have to be more in tune with the majority of the country. We’ll be interested to hear what it is. Two more years of the what-the-hell presidency of an unleashed radical is bound to engender some suspicion of unfettered liberalism, and so far the Democrats seem to the gamut from the Hillary CLinton left to the left-of-Hillary Clinton left, so there’s at least some hope that the Republicans can successfully present a conservative alternative if the country last another couple years. If they do he’ll probably reverse the current president’s executive orders, and not be bound by the law that a more savvy and less power-hungry predecessor could have finagled out of the weak-kneed Republican leaders and their rich businessmen contributors or pushed through when his party had all the power but the president had a reelection campaign in front of him, which would be a nice denouement to this whole sordid affair.

— Bud Norman

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