The president's decision to delay his potentially (and most likely) sweeping executive immigration action until after the November elections must seem quite clever, as well as necessary, for the White House. After all, a sweeping immigration executive action would doubtlessly embroil the country in a heated debate about its legitimacy and the president's domestic leadership strategies just before Americans are set to go to the polls with the Democrats' Senate majority in peril.
Why take the chance?
Democratic chances of keeping a Senate majority are already fraught enough. From the Democratic and presidential perspective, the election is better fought without that added turmoil.
And what are the downsides? Not much. Yes, the president will be reversing a public promise to act "before the end of the summer". But he's reversed himself publically on far more important "red lines". Yes, Republicans will accuse the administration of playing "raw politics" with its decision, and it is, but the administration hardly cares what John Boehner thinks.
More seriously, but still not a disqualifier for going ahead with the delay is the expected criticism from liberal supporters. Sure, Frank Sharry, executive director of the group America's Voice said, "We are bitterly disappointed in the president. The president and Senate Democrats have chosen politics over people."
Sure, he says he mad, but I predict that if the president does release a sweeping immigration executive action after the election, Mr. Sharry will quickly recover his enthusiasm for the president.
A little more serious, but still not disabling, is grassroots unhappiness with the delay. Latino groups "promised they would 'not soon forget' President Obama's move to delay any executive action on the border crisis until after the midterm elections."
Yes they will; almost as soon as he issues the order.
Eddie Carmona, director of the PICO National Network's Campaign for Citizenship, which claims to be one of the country's largest grass-roots, faith-based organizing networks, said "The president and the Senate Democrats have made it very clear that undocumented immigrants and Latinos are simply viewed as political pawns." If by that he means they are potential political assets whose importance must be weighed against other presidential political and legacy interests, he is absolutely right.
But again, so what? Liberal immigration activists use outrage as a mobilization strategy for the general public in the hopes that it works, but its real target is the president — and that has worked. "Deporter-in-chief" no more accurately describes the president's immigration enforcement record than "trigger happy" defines his foreign policy. But that accusation stings for a president who takes great pride in his identity as a progressive when the facts are so different. And the president knows this well because he is the one who has engineered the narrowing of interior immigration enforcement, and politically fiddled with the border arrest numbers.
And herein lies one of the self-imposed traps into which "the smartest guy ever to become president" has placed himself — again.
Next: President Obama's Self-imposed Immigration Dilemmas, Pt. 1