Obama’s Defining Moment

Obama Undocumented ImmigrantsPresident Barack Obama has a chance to define his presidency and vindicate the ideals of his 2008 campaign by one decisive act: issuing an Executive Order granting legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. By doing so, Obama immediately renders the constant media criticism of  him both irrelevant and  foolish.

For some, Obama’s defining moment was his support of marriage equality. Others see his defining moment negatively, in his failure to ensure a “public option” for health care after publicly backing the plan.

But for many of us, granting legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants is Obama’s defining test because:

1. The huge numbers impacted;

2. Latino voters’ role in Obama’s winning two national elections;

3. The U.S. legacy of mistreatment toward Latinos;

4. Latinos’ loyalty to the Democratic Party;

5. The mass activism in support of immigration reform;

6. The positive role immigrants have long played in charting America’s future;

7. It will make the Tea Party even angrier

8. It defines Obama as principled and tough

Obama and de Blasio are attacked because they are progressive. And if you think Obama is not progressive, ask yourself how many U.S. Senators not named Elizabeth Warren are clearly to the left of Obama.

Media Punching Bag

With over two years left in his presidency, Obama is already a media punching bag. And if you think that’s because of  personal deficiencies, check out the steady attacks on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—who has all the personal warmth Obama is said to lack.

Obama and de Blasio are attacked because they are progressive. And if you think Obama is not progressive, ask yourself how many U.S. Senators not named Elizabeth Warren are clearly to the left of Obama.

I would say none. And that’s why Obama is attacked not only from the right, but from neoliberal Dems like NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Dowd’s disparaging use of “Barry” for Obama’s first name is akin to the white racists who called Muhammad Ali “Cassius Clay.”

The traditional media wants a President who threatens and invades other nations at the drop of a hat. Because Obama refuses to do so, even drone strikes and maintaining troops in Iraq can’t alter the media framing of him as “weak.”

Playing to the Base

randy shawObama’s presidency is summed up as follows: when he plays to his core base, his popularity rises and his policies improve. When he alienates his base—as he did around school “reform,” the sequester and other bad budget deals, and by his waffling on the Keystone Pipeline—he gets less popular and his policies fail.

Granting legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants will galvanize the Democratic base. Recall the impact of Obama’s executive order legalizing Dreamers and multiply it by the thousands. Legalizing millions will have an emotional power far beyond passage of the Affordable Care Act, or any other legislation Obama has signed.

Granting legalization to millions will define Obama’s presidency because he did it on his own. Yes, he was pushed to do so by immigrant rights activists, whose earlier failure to hold Obama accountable (which I detail in The Activist’s Handbook) has shifted dramatically. But the bottom line, as also occurred when Obama was pressured on marriage equality, is whether he  responds to his base on their core priorities.

As the NY Times titled it July 3 editorial, Obama must “Go Big on Immigration.” This is likely his last chance to implement the transformative vision promised in his 2008 campaign.

randy shaw

Randy Shaw

Republicans will loudly protest no matter how small a legalization pool Obama creates. Meanwhile, Obama’s action will galvanize the Democratic base, particularly young voters who are needed at the polls in November.

Amidst all the problems going on in the world in July 2014, Barack Obama has a chance to bring real  justice to millions. He says he will be ready to  issue his order by the end of summer.

With the meaning of his presidency at stake,  Obama must seize the moment to define his place in history.

Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

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Comments

  1. AJ says

    “Granting legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants will galvanize the Democratic base”

    That is his presumed motivation but should not be why something as big as this should ever be done. We do not want any president that cynical and in a “by any means necessary” mode. The first consideration should be is it CLEARLY legal. I say clearly because you can always find some academic like Bush did with John Yoo who will tell you that practically anything you do is within your power. Second, is it right for the country, not a particular party’s designs on power.

  2. ReverendDraco says

    “President Barack Obama has a chance to define his presidency and vindicate the ideals of his 2008 campaign by one decisive act: issuing an Executive Order granting legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants.”

    While he’s at it. . . why doesn’t he miraculously grant “legal status” to every criminal? That would make them not criminals any more, and we could all walk off into the sunset, arm-in-arm. . . singing Kumbaya. . .

    Why, that’d fix everything!

    Gods. . . what a frakking moron.

  3. Luis L. says

    If he can do it legally he should. It would immediately remove the use of the term “illegal” from the rightwing vocabulary at least when it come to describing people whose only crime is wanting a better life.

  4. RonF says

    “Granting legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants will galvanize the Democratic base.”

    Look at the 2008 and 2012 election numbers. First, the popular vote was pretty evenly divided between Democrats and Republican. Second, fewer people turned out for 2012 than for 2008. Third, the margin by which Obama was re-elected was smaller in 2012 than 2008. What that tells me is that if the Romney had been able to energize America’s conservatives, he might have won. I figure that the Democratic base is going to turn out regardless of whether Pres. Obama does what you want or not. But doing as you suggest is not only going to energize the more conservative Americans – who did NOT turn out as much in 2012 as they did in 2008 – it will also cause a lot of more centrist people to turn out, and do so in opposition.

    From a social and governmental viewpoint, I would not want to see Obama issue such an order. But from a political viewpoint I’m pretty sure it would harm the Democratic cause.

  5. suz says

    It would be ‘Obama’s Defining Moment’ if it weren’t for all the other defining moments like the Affordable Care Act, equal pay for women, women’s reproductive health, LGBTQ rights, saving the auto industry, raising the min wage (at least for federal contract workers) and more.
    And after all, a moment is just one among many.
    With regard to immigration there is work ahead but here’s one thing that can help immigrant families for whom it’s applicable->

    https://www.healthcare.gov/blog/10-things-immigrant-families-need-to-know-about-the-marketplace/

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