President Obama has adopted a sly but compelling approach in trying to shake the anti-everything Republican Congressional caucus during its August vacation. It’s no secret that the POTUS considers the inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform to be the biggest failure of his first term. In remarks made during a Univision Spanish language forum in September of 2012, the President was not remiss in sharing blame with the unprecedentedly derelict legislative arm of government which has done its best to oppose the administration’s agenda at every turn. He told Univision, “What I confess I did not expect, and so I’m happy to take responsibility for being naive here, is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform, my opponent in 2008 who had been a champion of it and who attended these meetings, suddenly would walk away…That’s what I did not anticipate.”
In another era, calling out glaring hypocrisy on the part of one of the nation’s two dominant political parties might have been enough to generate a pivot. However a combination of preoccupied voters still concerned with Great Recession survival, lazy, partisan media outlets and the emboldened cynicism of the GOP have conspired to allow Republican leadership to brand their xenophobia as responsible civic stewardship. “We can’t reward those who break the rules!” they shout. “We must protect American jobs!” These types of justifications are uttered without a hint of irony as the GOP continues to wage war on the middle class on behalf of corporate interests – an arena where rule enforcement and the interests of the American worker suddenly lose their luster.
A signature feature of the President’s second term has been renewed focus and advocacy on the issue of large scale immigration reform. Recognizing that the ideals of the American Dream are imperiled by a system so imbalanced, so painful and punitive as to appear designed for lawbreaking and misery, Obama has returned to a first term issue with gusto. And for a time this past spring, the drive to sign changes into law appeared to have serious momentum. Then, predictably, the Republicans fell into fractious disarray, with Tea Party zealots like Senator Rand Paul and his ilk standing firm against common sense, even as old guard voices like former Vice President Dan Quayle and Karl Rove declared reform “a moral obligation.” This can’t be said enough. When Karl Rove becomes a voice of moderation and reason, your team has clearly gone off the rails.
There are days when I marvel at the President’s ability to get up, get dressed and head to the Oval Office, knowing full well that he’ll be confronting disingenuous, destructive, exhaustive bull crap every waking minute. The man is nothing if not tenacious. He’s also quite dexterous. I must commend him for a subtle new tactic of tying positive bits of economic news to the critical importance of immigration reform. Not only does this provide ample opportunity to keep the issue in the headlines given the recent, if tempered, spate of positive numbers, but it has the added benefit of framing the legislation accurately. Because the continuation of regressive, socioethnically biased policy with regard to our borders has been disowned by the business community and those concerned with justice, alike. How often does that happen?
USA Today published a story this week that ostensibly detailed the President’s plan to roll back Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s share of the mortgage market. However toward the end of the piece, the reporter writes “[Obama] noted a recent study by the pro-immigration group Americas Society/Council of the Americas that shows immigrants have added $ 3.7 trillion in housing wealth. ‘It’s pretty simple: When more people buy homes, and play by the rules, home values go up for everybody,’ Obama said.”
We know how much the climate change denying faction of the GOP, which tends to represent the same crazies that oppose immigration reform, revile facts. But an embrace of reality and practical good sense have served to be the POTUS’ most effective weapons in garnering the support of the American people, and occasionally, shaming Republicans into doing the right thing. Keep it up Mr. President.