“The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written,” Obama said at the National Council of La Raza’s annual conference.
Back in the years after the Spanish Civil War, the dictator Francisco Franco emblazoned his image on the coinage and the words “…caudillo of Spain by the grace of God.” Although secularist supporters of our President would like to skip the part about God, the truth of the matter is that he was elected with messianic attributes and expectations, neither of which have found their fulfilment but both of which are appropriate for a caudillo.
Barack Obama has discovered that we are in a political system that has two opposing poles, neither one of which can be ignored and where the aspirations of neither can be fulfilled in a strictly constitutional manner. He had his chance on immigration reform when he had an overall majority in Congress. But instead he chose health care reform as the place to spend political capital, which is why so many of the other interest groups of his party are unhappy with him these days.
Now he knows that only unilateral action is left to him, be that on the debt ceiling mess, immigration reform or just about anything else. And it’s tempting, especially in a country where a large segment of the population is on one form of the dole or another and where real civics knowledge is not well disseminated. But Barack Obama is no Andrew Jackson, who ignored Supreme Court decisions when it suited him. He’s not even capable of “community organiser” type of mass mobilisation to get his idea to stick.
Will he initiate serious unilateral action in the end? It’s hard to tell. Barack Obama is certainly cold-blooded enough to initiate it, but where he falls short–up to now–is his willingness to deal with the blowback.