Obama’s Political Brilliance
It’s been widely expected that President Obama will take unilateral action on immigration. On Thursday night, we’ll finally get to see Obama’s plan as he will unveil expected executive action in an address to the nation from Las Vegas.
What a brilliant political move!
I’ve long chided Democrats for their messaging failures and inability to grab an issue by its horns and take control of it. Republicans are experts at messaging and controlling an issue – look at Benghazi, Obamacare, and even the economy. Immigration, however, is one issue the Democrats dominate.
Undoubtedly, Democrats are in the drivers seat with regards to this issue because Republicans nobly failed to enact immigration reform and even stood staunchly against it. Despite promises from Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Republican House failed to work with the Senate Democrats to compromise on immigration reform. At least that’s how the American voters view the situation (a message that was successfully developed by Democratic leadership). Voters see Democrats as taking initiative on immigration whereas Republicans are but an obstacle.
That was likely to change, though, after the 2014 midterm elections. Republicans, undaunted by being labeled as the party of “No”, won Congress and thus can now control the legislative process. A rational Republican congress would seek to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It’s in the best interest of the Republican Party to utilize their Congressional majority, developing a track record on which congressional candidates and their presidential flag-bearer can run in 2016. Being able to turn to accomplishments that are acceptable to the American people will give legitimacy to a Republican majority and buoy their chances at maintaining and furthering their congressional majority.
Plus Republicans do not fare well with minorities. If Republicans are able to take control and credit for immigration reform, they could offer a substantial argument as to why minorities should support them in future elections. Republicans have everything to gain by championing immigration reform.
President Obama undercut them.
By taking the issue out of legislative hands, Obama can enact far-reaching reform and, most importantly, he will claim a victory for the Democratic Party. Immigration reform will bolster Democratic credentials with minority voters and likely keep and solidify their support for Democratic candidates. Republicans would have had a chance to claw minority support away from Democrats, but Obama’s executive actions will prevent this from happening. Considering a large turnout of minority voters was a crucial element of the Obama-coalition – a bastion of support for the president in 2008 and 2012 – Democrats want not only to repay them for their support, but to keep minority voters in their base camp.
The midterm elections prove how poorly Democrats fare when voter turnout drops. Mobilizing minorities would likely be challenging in the future if Democrats could not appeal to a positive track-record. Minority voters will be key in consolidating support in newly-blue states like Nevada and New Mexico and if the Democrats want to have any chance of putting Arizona and Texas into play, they need to mobilize and win support of minority voters. While immigration reform won’t guarantee minority support – after all, to assert that they are single issue voters is insulting – it provides an important victory and offers evidence of the beneficence of electing Democratic officials.
After the midterm elections, the immigration ball was rolling into the Republican’s court. Obama swooped in and returned it to the Democrat’s side. Should Obama deliver sweeping immigration reform, the Democrats will have scored a huge electoral and policy victory. Well done, Mr. President, well done.