The consequence of President Obama turning the tables and using the Republican just say no strategy against them is that the president has completely shattered Boehner and McConnell’s agenda.
Jonathan Chait explained how the Republican model of obstruct and blame worked for Republicans,
The GOP has withheld cooperation from every major element of President Obama’s agenda, beginning with the stimulus, through health-care reform, financial regulation, the environment, long-term debt reduction, and so on. That stance has worked extremely well as a political strategy. Most people pay little attention to politics and tend to hold the president responsible for outcomes. If Republicans turn every issue into an intractable partisan scrum, people get frustrated with the status quo and take out their frustration on the president’s party. It’s a formula, but it works.
The formula only fails to work if the president happens to have an easy and legal way to act on the issue in question without Congress. Obama can’t do that on infrastructure, or the grand bargain, and he couldn’t do it on health care. But he could do it on immigration. So Republicans were stuck carrying out a strategy whose endgame would normally be “bill fails, public blames Obama” that instead wound up “Obama acts unilaterally, claims credit, forces Republicans to take poisonous stance in opposition.” They had grown so accustomed to holding all the legislative leverage, they couldn’t adapt to a circumstance where they had none.
Obama knew that Republicans wouldn’t act on immigration no matter what he said, so the president used this knowledge against them. The problem with only having one strategy is that eventually opponents figure out how to defeat it. President Obama took one step beyond defeating it, and used the only game that Republicans know how to play to his advantage.
The simple fact is that Republicans don’t act on anything the president proposes. Having seen this behavior for years, the White House knew that they could threaten immigration action for months and Republicans would respond by doing nothing. After the president had acted, Republicans were placed in a new dynamic that they weren’t built for.
Republicans have no counter immigration bill to offer. They have no legal leg to stand on to oppose the president’s action. Their position on the issue is unpopular and costing them support with Latinos. They have so conditioned themselves to view inaction as action that when they are forced to act, they can’t.
The new dynamic that Obama forced on Boehner and McConnell has devastated the Republican agenda, and it signals the beginning of a new era in congressional/presidential relations. Republicans aren’t going to be able to leverage Obama vetoes to their advantage, and they are going to be faced
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association