One reason I’ve been somewhat forgiving of Obama’s executive action on immigration deportations is that I see it as a function not of his choice to be an “imperial” president, but as a result of unprecedented Republican obstructionism. It is, for example, jaw-dropping to hear the GOP declare its shock at the president’s refusal to take into account the results of the mid-terms as a democratic norm he should respect. These are the same people who, in January and February of 2009, responded to Obama’s landslide amid a catastrophic and accelerating depression by giving him zero votes on a desperately needed stimulus package.
We now know they decided as a conscious strategy to say no to anything and everything the new and young president, inheriting two failed wars and an imploding economy, wanted or needed. They were nihilist then as they are nihilist now with respect to the practical demands of actually governing the country. At some point, something had to give, and I can see why, after the GOP had again refused to allow immigration reform even to come to a vote in the House, he might have decided to fuck it.
But here’s how Ross understands this history:
Obama never really looked for domestic issues where he might be willing to do a version of something the other party wanted — as Bush did with education spending and Medicare Part D, and Clinton did with welfare reform. (He’s had a self-admiring willingness to incorporate conservative ideas into essentially liberal proposals, but that’s not really the same thing.)
Again, I just do not recognize this reality. What exactly did the GOP want in 2009? That’s hard to say. But on the issues on which Obama had campaigned – say, the stimulus, healthcare, climate change and immigration – he embraced conservative ideas, as Ross concedes. He packed the stimulus with tax cuts (and still got no GOP votes); he embraced Mitt Romney’s and the Heritage Foundation’s version of healthcare reform over his own party’s preference for single payer (and was treated as a commie because of it); he supported cap and trade on climate change – again a policy innovated on the right (and got nowhere); and on immigration, he backed George W Bush’s formula but sweetened it over six years with aggressive deportations and huge increases in funding for the Mexican border. So what on earth is Ross talking about?
Yes, Obama does have ambitions to be a transformational president, a liberal Reagan. And, after two thumping victories, he still has a solid shot at getting there. And if we had a reasonable or even feisty opposition party – as opposed to a foam-flecked insurrection against everything – that legacy would have been even more informed by conservative thought and ideas. And the idea that no executive action is allowed is just as silly. The executive branch has a key role in determining things like the level of permissible carbon emissions (via the EPA), or priorities in immigration enforcement (via ICE), or national security (via the Pentagon, NSA and CIA). At some point, in other words, it was the GOP who made this president more executive-minded, by removing every other pathway for him to pursue what the country elected him to do. Because they never really accepted that he had won big majorities twice for a reason. And that reason was change.
This weekend, we ran in full a speech by the evangelical scholar and leader David Gushee, changing his mind on gay rights. A reader writes of it:
I’m not a Christian and I have to admit that I often skim or skip much of your Sunday content because it just doesn’t resonate with me. But I just watched Dr. Gushee’s speech straight through and I have to say thank you for posting it. As someone totally outside the Christian — and certainly evangelical — community, I doubt I would have been exposed to this otherwise. What an astonishingly moving speech. I don’t for a second pretend to understand the evangelical world, its movements or its politics. But I know that most evangelical people are good, well-meaning individuals, just trying to live in the world in a manner true to their ideals and beliefs. I can’t see how they could watch this speech and not be moved by it, even if it challenges some of their core thinking. It’s an elegant and in some ways courageous statement given the social community Dr. Gushee lives in.
It sure is. It’s one of those speeches within which the world shifts a little – permanently. It’s really worth your time. Other posts worth a revisit: a premonition of what might happen in Ferguson this week; Ursula Le Guin’s defense of fantasy fiction and of writing itself; the small sadnesses in YouTube; a devastating poem about the end of a marriage; the cartoon genius of Richard Thompson; what Jesus can mean in Iraq today; and a DFW classic quote on why he will one day be entirely forgotten (if not by the Dish).
The most popular post of the weekend was Illiberal Feminism Strikes Again, followed by Julie Bindel’s critique of the same. 20 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here - and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish - for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here and Dish t-shirts here.
See you in the morning, as the Iran talks reach their moment of truth.
(Photo: Lesley McSpadden, the mother of slain Ferguson teen Michael Brown, talks to a crowd of protesterson November 23, 2014 in advance of the Grand Jury verdict on police officer Darren Wilson. By Sebastiano Tomada/Getty Images.)