Why did President Obama suddenly change course on immigration and “go it alone”? Politics of course. The next election is still two years away, but the campaign and debate season starts long before the election and now he has put Republicans on the defensive again. Although the President’s record on immigration has been checkered with increased deportations and lack of progress on immigration reform, he has kept the Democrats as the preferred choice of Hispanics. The dreams of Reagan and H.W. Bush to champion immigration reform and make the Republican Party, the party of immigrants, especially Hispanics, have turned into nightmares thanks to the overly nativist ultraconservative wing that influences the GOP. Reagan once quipped "Latinos are Republicans. They just don't know it yet." Perhaps today the more applicable quote is “Republicans are doomed. They just don’t know it yet.”
In addition to keeping the Hispanic electorate away from the Republicans, the ever so pliable media will now seek out Republican leaders, especially Speaker Boehner, and ask when the House will take up the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate 62-38? While the GOP responds with its “executive amnesty” and “Emperor Obama” talking points, they will be exposed and forced to respond to questions about what they plan on doing, and with every response will come a potential sound bite for Democratic campaign staffers. If Boehner decides to move forward with legislation, he runs the risk of upsetting the “Yahoo Wing” of the party and its militant active base.
Thirdly, by keeping immigration reform on the front burner, President Obama has once again driven a wedge between the potential 2016 GOP candidates with John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie separated from Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and the rest of the ultraconservatives. The more wedge issues like immigration are used to define the GOP, the longer they will be on the defensive and the harder it will be for its candidates to run primary and general election campaigns. You can only go to the etch-a-sketch so often.
To love politics is to be a cynic. And while many celebrate the words and acts of our favorite political leaders, make no mistake about it, there is always a political angle that motivates. Perhaps that is why our voter turnout numbers are chronically low, and why so many Americans simply tune out the noise from DC. Nonetheless, Machiavelli would surely love this move by President Obama.
It's just politics.