I’m surprised to see some people saying yes this morning. David Frum tweeted that he thinks O’s executive order is now sunk under the great red wave. As you’ll see below, Chuck Todd thinks so too. I get that at a gut level. Democrats just got punched 50 times in the face by voters; when you’re in that position, you don’t do something provocative that might earn you another 50.
What do they have to lose at this point, though? Obama has nothing to fear from voters anymore. Even in a worst-case scenario, where he issues the order and there’s a public backlash, Hillary and the rest of the 2016 crop are free to condemn him for it. “I support the president’s noble goal of bringing the undocumented out of the shadows,” she’ll say, in perfect left-speak, “but we need to let the people’s representatives work this out in Congress.” That’s a win/win answer, pandering to the Latino voters she needs in 2016 while distancing herself from O for the benefit of independents. And of course, amnesty fans who are grateful to Obama will end up expressing it by voting for her, notwithstanding her (tepid, phony) opposition to it.
Meanwhile, issuing the order would have some nice political benefits for Obama. It’d be his way of showing his deeply demoralized base that he’s not giving up on progressivism entirely, even if he ends up making a deal or two with the evil GOP. And it’d be a clever way to throw the new Republican Congress off-balance, putting Boehner and McConnell in the agonizing position of deciding whether to pander to their base by fiercely opposing the order or to pander to Latinos they’re wooing for 2016 by going easy on Obama over it. If you’re a White House strategist hoping to jumpstart the GOP civil war that lefty pundits insist is coming, you could do worse than lob an immigration grenade at them right before they take their seats. And of course, there are long-term benefits to Democrats by making amnesty the new status quo, even if the means is legally dubious:
Senate Democrats in red states have all been swept away. Obama’s lost the entire country, except for his base. So now the obvious move is to … cancel an immigration order that his base badly wants, thereby alienating them too? Huh? They’re already angry at him for delaying the order past election day. If he pulls the rug out from under them by canceling amnesty altogether, he’ll crash below 40 percent approval and be as lame a lame duck as Bush was, if not lamer.
The only reason not to issue the order is if you think that angry swing voters will have a longer memory about it than Latinos and other amnesty supporters will. Mickey Kaus notes in support of that position that all of last night’s Democratic Senate losers voted for the Gang of Eight bill, which passed the Senate nearly 18 months ago. Okay, but all the incumbents who lost also voted for health-care reform, which passed four and a half years ago. Was it amnesty that killed them or ObamaCare? (Before you answer, read this.) Maybe it was no particular issue that did it, just broader disgruntlement over the all-fronts misery of Hopenchange over the past two years. Either way, to make executive amnesty a potent issue, you’d need the GOP to run full steam against it in 2016 and refresh voters’ memories. But of course the GOP won’t run full steam against it because they understand, as we all should given the swing between 2010 and 2012, that electorates in presidential election years are very different from electorates in the midterms. There’ll be many more Latinos voting in two years than voted yesterday and the GOP may well have a nominee (think Jeb Bush) who’s running on his immigration reform credentials, to impress Latino voters. If anything, I’d bet that Republicans in Congress will be willing to challenge Obama on an executive order this winter only if they think voters won’t remember that in 2016. After all, they’ll have their conservative base voters that year no matter what. It’s Latinos and centrists they covet. And if you believe the polls (which maybe you shouldn’t after last night), most Americans are willing to accept some form of legalization for illegals, which is what O’s amnesty would grant. How likely is a sustained public backlash, really?
Go figure, then, that the word from White House sources last night was that it’s full speed ahead with Obama’s amnesty order. I think he might scale down the scope of the amnesty he’s planning in the wake of the midterm results, but that would be stupid, frankly: He’ll be hammered by opponents no matter how big or small his order is, so why not go big? Exit quotation from a White House aide who spoke to Politico, vowing that O would issue his order as promised: “You can’t lose your base. There are policy things we are going to have to support where the base isn’t there. But you’ve got to keep your eye on your base.”