The President’s executive actions on immigration are limited, contingent on statutory authority and prosecutorial discretion, and temporary. They can be neutered or replaced by legitimate congressional lawmaking or a successor in the White House. This is less a power grab than an acknowledgement that the country is far from the post-partisan politics that he promised in his initial run for the presidency. That acknowledgement, however tardy, is welcome. Until we as a country face up to the destructiveness of our asymmetric partisan polarization, there is little chance of improving our dysfunctional government.
The crocodile tears in reaction to President Obama acting well beyond his constitutional authority and destroying prospects in Congress for bipartisan agreement on a range of pressing public problems, including immigration, are laughable. The President has faced unified and unrelenting opposition from Republicans in Congress since the first day of his presidency, following his sweeping victory and that of his fellow Democrats in Congress in the 2008 election. Republicans have never accepted the legitimacy of his presidency nor demonstrated any willingness to enter into negotiations with him to deal with the Great Recession, stagnant wages, serious flaws in the regulation of financial services, unsustainable health care costs, a deteriorating infrastructure, climate change, and a widely acknowledged broken immigration system. Instead, since the 2010 elections returned the GOP to the majority in the House, they have engaged in unprecedented and irresponsible brinksmanship and hostage-taking that have threatened the full faith and credit of the country, weakened the economy, and precipitated a sharp decline in the public’s trust in government.
Now that the President has decided to use his well documented constitutional and statutory authority to ease temporarily one of the most difficult and painful problems facing the country, Republicans are shocked, yes shocked that he would “poison the well” and destroy any chance of bipartisan comity in the new Congress.
Let’s get serious. Republicans used their majority foothold in the House to guarantee that Congress would be the graveyard of serious policymaking, a far cry from the deliberative first branch of government designed by the framers. They have reduced the legislative process to nothing more than a tool in a partisan war to control the levers of public power. The cost of such unrelenting opposition and gridlock is that policymaking initiative and power inevitably will flow elsewhere — to the executive and the courts.