Dear Mr. President:
I heard recently that you plan to delay any executive action on immigration, such as delaying deportation of child refugees, until after the November elections — this in spite of your stated intention earlier to do something by the “end of the summer.”
I’m sure your advisers told you that this would be a smart political move. You may even believe it yourself. Well, they’re wrong, and so are you if you buy into that.
Oh, sure, it’s true that some of the more hotly contested races that could determine control of the Senate are in so-called “red” states. I know it looks like a bad idea to rile up the Republican “base” of xenophobes, bigots, Fox News-addicted outrage junkies, and various other angry, frightened old white dudes. My stars, taking executive action might even upset them enough to get to the polls to vote against Democrats.
But here’s the thing, Mr. President: They’re going to get riled up no matter what you do or don’t do. Riled up is their default state. They’ve been in a state of apoplectic rage since Nov. 4, 2008, when you sent the poster child for angry old white dudes and his empty-headed snowbilly running mate packing.
It only got worse four years later, when their supposed savior, Lord Mitt Romney, couldn’t get out of the way of his own feet and stumbled to a humiliating loss that everyone except them could see coming. All you have to do to upset the Republican base and get them to the polls is be a black Democrat in the White House.
You don’t believe me when I say that trying not to upset the Raging Right is a sucker’s game? Check out Newt Gingrich, who went on CNN’s “State of the Union” to call you “cowardly” and “indecisive” for delaying taking action on immigration.
Of course, no one on the program bothered to point out that on Aug. 3, Newt called such action “unconstitutional” and an example of “the Venezuelan-style, anything-I-want-is-legal presidency.”
Look at the House, where the speaker, John Boehner, urged you to act on immigration “without the need for congressional action,” the day after his caucus voted to sue you for acting without congressional action — to delay implementation of a law that they repeatedly voted to repeal.
You cannot placate these people. You cannot calm them down, especially since there’s a billion-dollar industry dedicated to keeping them angry and so afraid of everything that they’re convinced that they’ll be robbed, raped or killed if they don’t have a gun on them every time they leave the house.
Instead of trying to soothe the Republican base, why don’t you pay some attention to your own? You seem so worried at the prospect of right-wingers going to the polls that you’re forgetting the people you need to go there.
Latinos, of course, are the fastest growing demographic in the nation. You also need to get young people fired up. But what I’m hearing from them is a growing sense of frustration, complaints that “politicians are all the same,” and a general apathy about voting.
Dems will probably still get a goodly portion of the female vote, but that’s mainly because several Republicans will inevitably say something incredibly stupid, misogynistic, or patronizing toward women before it’s over. But we need the rest of the constituency, too. So now is not the time for half-measures.
I know, Mr. President, that you’re called “No Drama Obama.” But maybe it’s time for something dramatic. For starters, use the power you have as the executive to delay or defer the deportation of refugee children.
For all the caterwauling about “tyranny” (which, remember, they’re going to do anyway), that power falls squarely within the scope of what’s called “prosecutorial discretion”: the recognition that you simply don’t have unlimited resources to prosecute every law, all the time, so the executive branch can allocate those resources as it sees fit. Prosecutorial discretion has long been recognized by the courts as a legitimate use of executive power.
The Teahadists have threatened impeachment if you try that? Let ’em bring it. Lawsuits? Bring those on, too.
Iowa Rep. Steve King has raised the idea of another government shutdown in protest if you take executive action. Tell him, “Please proceed, Congressman.” Because if there’s one thing that will get wavering Democrats and independents off the couch and into the voting booths, it’ll be the spectacle of the wingnuts once again waving their torches and pitchforks and threatening to destroy the country in order to save it.