An interesting shift per Greg Sargent, and oddly coincidental with reports of right-leaning groups ramping up their own immigration pressure on the House GOP. Apparently activists have given up trying to intimidate the other side for the moment and resumed trying to intimidate their own. Who caves first, Obama to lefties or the House GOP to centrists?
It could be that this is simply the flip side of the reality, long noted by border hawks like myself, that Obama would get the lion’s share of the credit from Latino voters even if Boehner and the GOP turned around and passed amnesty tomorrow. Maybe that’s because the president is inevitably the face of major legislation, no matter how bipartisan it is, or maybe it’s because Latino voters skew heavily Democratic regardless. (The GOP saw no improvement among Latinos after Reagan signed the amnesty of 1986.) If he’s getting the credit no matter what, maybe he’s also getting some blame no matter what.
“There has been a shift within the Hispanic media,” Jorge Ramos, the influential Univision anchor who has been called the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media,” told me. “If you read the editorial pages in the most important Spanish language newspapers, you notice immediately how the conversation has changed from attacking Republicans to attacking Obama.”…
“They’ve already given up on Republicans,” Ramos said, characterizing Latino media viewpoints. “Immigration reform is not going to happen now. The only one who can do something is President Obama. On a personal basis, what is more harmful: Republicans who are not moving on immigration, or a president who is removing your father, your mother, your brother, your co-worker, and your friends from this country?”
The legal nuances are murky. Experts say Obama certainly can’t “stop all deportations” or legalize anyone unilaterally. He only deferred deportation for DREAMers. But there’s even some question about how many categories he could defer deportation for, because that means pushing more people to the bottom of the list, making it harder to justify with prosecutorial discretion.
Sargent goes on to say that even though it’s not clear whether O has legal authority to freeze all deportations, Latino media seems to assume that he has it and is holding him responsible for inaction. That’s a fascinating twist to Obama’s power grabs in other areas, ObamaCare most prominent among them. You’re familiar with most of the constitutional and prudential critiques of executive overreach by now — it’s a threat to separation of powers, it’s foolhardy insofar as a Republican president can undo all of O’s actions by simple executive order, and so on. But one point that rarely gets made is how each bit of unilateralism raises expectations for more unilateralism among his base. If you’re a pro-amnesty voter and you’re watching Obama summarily extend statutory deadlines for people with “un-canceled” insurance plans to buy coverage on the ObamaCare exchanges, why wouldn’t you assume that O could do something similar for illegals on deportation? The more he imposes his will contra statute, the more different special interests will reasonably expect him to do so for their own pet causes. He already seems to see the limits on his own authority as chiefly political, not statutory; if you’re a smart liberal and you want him to act, it thus behooves you to change the political calculus for him, which is exactly what Latino media is doing. In case Jonathan Turley’s looking for a new vein on this subject for his next op-ed, there’s a rich one for him. Presidential turf grabs are always worrisome, but how much more worrisome are they when the president owes his power to “clientelism”? How can he say no to Client Y when he’s already said yes to Client X? Or does he?
Exit question: Is there any reason why Obama might cave on this before the midterms rather than after? The GOP’s reluctant to cave because there’s a legit chance of a conservative backlash in November if they do. No one thinks unilateral action by Obama on deportations will bring liberals, Latino or otherwise, out in droves, though. Even if it did bring some out, furious Republicans would probably see their turnout climb even higher. Might as well wait ’til next year if you’re O.