My father’s late girlfriend used to call Obama a communist. I once asked her, “So what would you call Stalin?” I don’t think she fully appreciated my point. But conservatives really should consider it because they are living it right now. Over the past two weeks, the Republicans have been warning the president that if he took executive action on immigration, it would be all out war. It’s kind of like Hitler threatening all out war if the Allies continued to bomb Berlin. How exactly is this going to get worse?
But in addition to this, there is the way that Obama has been presented in all of this. The average Fox News viewer already thinks that Obama is a lawless president who has enacted one law after another that is unconstitutional. (I doubt one in a hundred of these people could explain why these laws are supposedly unconstitutional.) Now Obama has done something that pushes political norms but he is not breaking the law. So what are the Republicans to say? If they were honest, they would say that he was pushing political norms. But they can’t say that because no one would care that the great lawless usurper is simply doing something that past Republican presidents have done, but a little more aggressively. So they will lie and say he is lawless.
And who really cares? In the conservative imagination, Obama is already lawless. Are they going to say that he is double plus lawless? Or are they going to recalibrate and claim that before they were being a bit hyperbolic and that he wasn’t really lawless but now he is? So what?! It really doesn’t matter given that the Fox News viewer already thinks he is the man who brought National Socialism to America.
This morning, John Boehner declared, “We have a broken immigration system and the American people expect us to work together to fix it.” He added, “All year long I have warned the president that by taking unilateral action on matters such as his healthcare law or by threatening action repeatedly on immigration, he was making it impossible to build the trust necessary to work together.” This is “fall down laughing” material. In 2009, Mitch McConnell said that the Republicans’ number one task was to make Obama a one-term president. And they did everything they could to make that happen. Yet they claim that they are the ones who have reason not to trust. It is amazing.
So after Obama’s landslide in 2008, the Republicans wouldn’t work with him. After the Republican landslide in 2010, Obama bargained away everything and the Republicans would not take it. After a solid Democratic win in 2012, the Republicans wouldn’t work at all with the White House. And now that they have control of the entire Congress, we are to believe that the day of bipartisan compromise has arrived? It is shocking in its presumption.
This morning, Jonathan Chait laid out the real result of this move, “Ardent populists are demanding a series of suicidal confrontations, from shutdowns to, potentially, impeachment, as the Party leadership strains desperately to keep them at bay.” And I’m sure that was a big part of Obama’s calculus in this matter. As I discussed yesterday, the Republicans’ “working together” with the president would always be a day away.
From a Democratic standpoint, the worst that now happens is that the Republicans do exactly what they were going to do anyway. But that is unlikely. It is far more likely that the crazies in the party will demand all kinds of self-defeating actions. And Chait is right that this will cause whoever becomes the presidential nominee to have to move far to the right on immigration. So what we have is an action that is both good policy and good politics. I can see why the Republicans are unhappy about it.