There are times when I don’t really get this administration’s messaging strategy.
The White House said Wednesday it was “crazy” to attempt to divine the president’s post-election plans for an immigration executive order based on a procurement request issued by the Department of Homeland Security.
“I mean, this is crazy,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, adding he would caution reporters against “making assumptions” based on the “procurement of green paper.”
The proposal, unveiled earlier this week by Breitbart News, asks potential contractors to prepare for the possibility of producing up to 34 million green cards and work permits over the next five years.
I mean, let’s game this out.
The administration has a basic problem, here: to wit, it’s publicly committed – and more importantly, linked to – a particular and specific stance on immigration issues*. Said stance is more or less anathema to a section of the population that plans to vote this November; and said population is clumped in areas where said anathema will have a disproportionate impact. On the other hand, abandoning that stance will be anathema to another section of the population; and that section has already made it clear that they are not going to simply supinely accept the status quo. In short: one way or the other, this administration is going to make somebody mad over immigration.
So, what to do? Well, the basic ethical position, of course – also the practical one (that happens a lot, actually) – is to decide what your principles are and try to stick to them. So if the administration really does believe in changing immigration policy, then it should go ahead and do that. Even if it does hurt the Democrats in the short run, in the longer run it’d show that the Obama administration has moral courage**.
Of course, for that to happen the administration would actually have to have moral courage, which is where the whole thing breaks down. So instead we have this situation where Obama’s people are nervously blustering about how they’re not going to start issuing green cards en masse after the election. This is convincing to no-one: because the truth is that the Obama administration will absolutely start doing it if the administration thinks that it can get away with it. Folks voting in elections featuring Red state Democrats will focus on the bolded part, and vote accordingly; while folks favoring looser immigration rules will focus on the italicized part, assume that another excuse will be coming down the pike, and likewise vote accordingly. And in both cases, ‘vote accordingly’ will not mean ‘vote in a manner pleasing to Democrats.’
Shorter Moe Lane: try to please everybody, and you end up pleasing nobody. Personally, I learned this in grammar school: why didn’t the people running the Democratic party?
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: My colleague and friend Leon Wolf has a somewhat different take on this. Although he and I certainly share a certain scorn towards this administration…
*Full disclosure: it’s accurate to say that I am in fact ‘a pro-amnesty shill.’
**This reminds me of our current situation with regard to national security and foreign affairs. The GOP is right back to being decidedly considered more trustworthy than the Democrats on both issues, which would startle the average political consultant back in, say, 2006. Republicans stuck to their guns on the GWOT, accepted the hits to the caucus, and refused to trim their sails to fit the fad of the day; while Democrats more or less abandoned their burnished antiwar credentials as soon as they could. And guess what? Turns out that voters kind of don’t like politicians that can’t be counted on. Go figure, huh?