If Obama Wins a Second Term, What Happens to Us?

“Can a second term get worse for Obama? For America? History instructs that second terms are marked by more trials and disappointments than triumphs.” – Thomas Cronin, writing for the Daily Beast in Obama’s Nightmare: Reelected in 2012 but Republicans take the Senate.

Intrade odds for Obama’s reelection are hovering over 50% – historically good odds.  Not many people have very high hopes for the Republican field of nominees. Obama’s teams have been preparing for Romney for a long time (in a head to head match-up, Obama consistently beats Romney), and since many Iowa caucus-goers take “electability” as an important consideration, we are probably not looking at an 11th hour Ron Paul lead (although I wouldn’t underestimate the fact that he has the strongest “boots on the ground” presence than the other candidates).

But this isn’t about the Republican field. This is about the likelihood of four more years of Obama, and what conditions the pro-migrant movement will have to work with.

We can assume that there will continue to be gridlock. The Democrats have over two dozen seats in play in the Senate. It might be lost, compounding the problems we already have with a House of Representatives that swings jerkily to the right.

If only, some people will say, if only Democrats had the House and the Senate. Then we would get somewhere. That’s why it is important to vote.

Maybe. I wouldn’t concede that at this point, focusing on congressional races is much more important than the presidency. But even winning back the chambers guarantees nothing. We had that chance in the last congressional cycle, and it was lost. Democrats had the presidency, the House, and the Senate; the DREAM Act still failed.

Gridlock, for this political system, is normal operating procedure. Cronin, from the same Daily Beast article, quotes a historian on this topic:

“Where the country is not sure what ought to be done,” wrote historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., “it may be that delay, debate and further consideration are not a bad idea. And if our leadership is sure what to do, it must educate the rest of us—and that is not a bad idea either.”

Sounds about right. I can still hear senators on the floor in 2010 declaring that they “needed more time” and couldn’t understand why we were “rushing” to pass the DREAM Act.

We’ve been talking about the possibility of Obama using an executive order for a while. Maybe there will be a better chance that Obama will use it after 2012, since he won’t be worrying about reelection anymore. However, he will still have to worry about governing, and the idea of alienating Congress with unilateral action may force Obama to shy away from bold moves. But could Congress possibly be more alienated than it is now? A House that literally says “no” to everything, even the things with which it agrees?

The Obama administration has proven, at least to itself, that it can act unilaterally. Obama signed many executive orders, including initiatives that could help 1.6 million college students repay their federal loans, 1 million homeowners meet their mortgage payments, and 8,000 veterans find jobs.

A note about executive orders – they cannot appropriate money, and they can be undone by the courts, Congress, and the next sitting president. In other words, they’re decisive action, but they can be undone.

In the past year, we among many other organizations have been calling for an executive order to stay deportations for those who are DREAM-eligible or simply don’t qualify as a criminal threat to the nation.

So far, all we’ve gotten are memos that don’t make their way to ICE offices anywhere- and especially not in Mobile, Alabama.  But the possibility still exists of getting an executive order.

If Obama were to take the bold moves that we want him to, he would be scoring some serious points with the Sexist Voting Bloc Alive: Latinos (I say that because pundits talk about the Latino vote like it’s the Holy Grail), and making a down payment for Democrats on the election cycle in 2016. But nobody except he would be able to really take credit for that- so it would be a hollow victory.

It’s an overused metaphor, but it really does feel like a chess game.  Politicians want to be elected and re-elected. Political parties want voting blocs. Democrats want to show Latinos that they’re their champions to secure their vote. Republicans don’t want Democrats to have the Latino vote, but after a barrage of anti-immigrant and voter-ID laws in states across the country, apparently they aren’t sure they want anybody to have the Latino vote (or the youth vote, or the vote of any minority group…).

Which leaves the last players in the game. Us.

In the past year, people have had to swallow the bitter pill that was December 18th, 2010 and get on with the business of surviving, which is in itself an act of resistance.  And it seems that resistance – all the organizing, educating, activating that has happened in Alabama, California, Illinois, New York, and online – is also an act of survival.

I started writing this post hoping that I could play out the possibilities for us into the future. Things look pretty grim where deportation relief or a path to citizenship is concerned.  Our deliverance, for now, are the communities that we create together, providing solidarity, support, and good humour so that we can resist to survive.  Don’t be afraid. Don’t be alone. We’re waiting for your email. We are all here for you.

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8 thoughts on “If Obama Wins a Second Term, What Happens to Us?

  1. I don’t mean to be pessimistic here, but your article made me look back at  how things have unfolded and the circumstances to come. I mean, let’s just say  *knock on wood* that the DREAM Act passes, say in 2014 (somehow the House passes it), that’s still 2 years away and some people who have been in this movement, may age out…or even if it were to pass in 2015 or later, it’s just a messed up issue and the article made me realize one thing: what we have is our communities and the solidarity we build among each other as people.

    P.S. It’s uber-ridiculous that in 2007 with a GOP prez and congress. reps were willing to do CIR, but now its been pretty much a 360 turn on this issue.

    La lucha sigue.

  2. @Christian:  That is because the Democratic party leadership gave its all to unseat all the reasonable Republicans Congress had at the time.  In the name of gaining a useless majority. 

  3. If Obama wins, nothing changes.
    If Romney wins, things get worse.
    If Newt wins, deportations probably slow down and people are eventually made US residents (no citizenship).
    If Perry wins, probably the same as Newt.
    If Santorum wins… I have no idea

    • I doubt Newt would get that to go through. Despite his views on immigration being the more favorable one, it’s still not good enough (I believe he once wanted to change aspects of the DREAM Act for the not-better). Plus, seriously, he’s an idiot in every other regard.

      Our best shot — given American’s Elect doesn’t have some miraculous surge to provide us with a good candidate — is to re-elect Obama. Sure, those numbers are terrible, but something tells me he hasn’t used his bully pulpit for fear of not getting re-elected. (I always hated politics for this reason; what’s the point of running for office if you don’t stick your neck out for something you believe will benefit this country? That happened with the Dream Act a year or so ago, because Dems were afraid that their seats would get warm.)

      What I wonder, though, is why hasn’t anyone proposed some kind of pragmatic “amnesty tax” that would give legal resident status to all “illegals” in the US (with a clear, easy path to citizenship) while also imposing a small tax solely for those that were here “illegally.” It’s definitely not ideal, but it’s a compromise and something that everyone would be happy with (or, at least, not so pissed off with).

      Or maybe I’m just crazy. I don’t know. I’m not a Political Science major, you guys.

  4. The only way things would change is that everyone work to get Democrats back into office (they wanted the bill to pass). The only reason the Democrats couldn’t do anything in the Senate was because of the 60 vote filibuster rule. They only had 58 votes, so the Republicans united to defeat the bill. If you look across America, Republicans have been to extreme against the Latino and African American communities with their state laws (Just look at Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, etc…). We must get active with the DNC or President Obama’s website to make sure we put people in that will support us. President Obama did try, but again he knew that the Republicans could defeat him. So now we must mobilize together an be united just like the Republicans and Tea Party was when they took over the House in 2010. We have the numbers to win, but its going to be up to us to make sure we win.Republicans main mission is to divide minorities against each other to win. They understand the motto, “United they win, Divided they fall’.  Remember Mitt Romney, who will be the Republican Nominee has already stated he will “VETO” any type of a Dream Act Bill”, so now its up to you to make the right change and get active..

    • 3 Republicans voted for the Dream Act. That plus the Democrats would make it over the 60 vote threshold, but 5 Democrats voted against it. You’re right about Mitt Romney though.

      •  Sorry your right I forgot about Nelson, Manchin and Lieberman and Ted Kennedy death that affected the votes. The problem still was we didn’t have the votes to get it passed. But we must stop complaining an get ready for a ugly fight because Mitt Romney has Carl Rowe an plenty of big money and they will try to destroy President Obama, who is truly trying to get the Dream Act pass. Hell Romney even said he would deport President Obama’s uncle.  I for one have joined his website an already met plenty of people getting ready to fight for our rights.

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