Obama's Falling Numbers No Panacea for Conservatives

Conservatives, increasingly in the political wilderness on the national level since the disastrous 2006 midterms, are smiling at the news of sinking poll numbers for President Obama. The RCP average of polls of the president’s national approval numbers show President Obama at his lowest approval score in 17 months — just over 45%.


The president has been buffeted by scandals early in his second term, including the IRS targeting of Tea Party, pro-Israel, and pro-life groups; surveillance of reporters from AP, Fox News, and likely CBS (Sharyl Attkisson); the Benghazi debacle; and the vast NSA monitoring program revealed by Edward Snowden to Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian. Another scandal lurks now regarding whether the Clinton administration was responsible for a cover-up relating to the midair explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

All of these stories striking within a few weeks have weakened Americans’ trust in their government. Meanwhile, this administration desires nothing more than the expansion of government and the increasing of American dependence on government largesse.

Conservatives hoping that the weakening approval scores will make Obama more circumspect about advancing his agenda are dreaming, and certainly are not watching what is going on in Washington. Just as in the months leading up to the passage of Obamacare, the president and his team are focused on pushing through a big piece of the president’s agenda — a massive immigration reform bill. That bill will provide a path to citizenship for 11 million illegals already here, and will significantly increase the flow of legal immigrants to the United States.

The majority of those who will be legalized or allowed into the country in the future will be unskilled Hispanic immigrants from Central and South America. The bill will also increase the number of skilled immigrants (mainly Asians), but this share of legal immigration may be no more than 10% of the total. This is a result of “chain immigration” (the allowance for family members of legal immigrants to also immigrate) that is expanded by the new bill.


Unlike in Canada, where legal immigration has occurred at far higher rates than in the United States but with preferences for skilled immigrants, the new reform bill will likely guarantee that a record high percentage of new legal immigrants will not fall into the skilled category.

If the immigration bill reflecting the views of the Gang of Eight in the Senate passes and is signed into law, President Obama will have achieved a massive political benefit for his party by creating a flow of tens of millions of future voters — most of whom will be lower-income Americans likely to support Democrats and to back richer government-benefit programs when they get the opportunity to vote. Conservatives can cheer themselves with Obama’s poll numbers, which in some cases seem to be sinking by the day, but the longer political war is being won legislatively by the left.

The immigration debate has demonstrated that the Right is in a civil war of sorts regarding immigration reform, while the left is rather united in wanting the bill passed. One could find reasons why African Americans might oppose the new immigration reform, since it will provide a lot of new competition for lower-wage workers. Unions could also find reasons to oppose the bill, since it will likely drive down or at least constrain wage levels, as the first CBO analysis of the bill confirmed.

But this is not the case.

African Americans have remained fiercely loyal to Obama, and unions have become cheerleaders for the bill — perhaps visualizing the long-term increase in voters who will support public employee unions in their states or at the federal level, and over time become union members. Though Republicans are among the key supporters of the bill in the Senate (Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake) and some conservatives have been cheerleaders for the legislation (such as the Cato Institute, Commentary, and Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post), other conservatives in the Senate and House are far more skeptical of the net benefits of the bill. If the recent language added on border security is acceptable to a dozen or so Senate Republicans, the bill could pass the Senate with close to 70 votes and put enormous pressure on House Republicans to join the bandwagon.


The critics of a “legalization first” approach to immigration may be bought off by the new border-security spending and personnel, but this adjustment does not deal with other defects in the bill, including whether those here illegally deserve a path to citizenship as opposed to an alternative legal status and whether the opportunities for future legal immigration will continue to be badly skewed against skilled immigrants.

The president may be suffering declining poll numbers, but he and his campaign apparatus seem to be in permanent campaign mode, with much bigger megaphones than his opponents.

Climate change legislation has no chance in Congress, but the president is advertising that his executive-branch agencies — particularly the EPA — are ready to attack this summer, hitting existing and new utility plants with onerous limits on emissions. Lawsuits may slow the implementation of the new regulations, but it is a good bet that in the end, Obama will win on this, too.

The biggest problem for conservatives and Republicans is that they always appear to be reactive. The agenda is set by the other side, and when the agenda of the Left is resisted, the GOP is painted as obstructionist, out of the mainstream, out of touch with ordinary Americans (who, of course, will be helped by the Left’s agenda in the mainstream media’s recounting), and racist.

Hoping for more honest and objective coverage from the national press following the Obama scandals is foolish. Half the national press seems to have a spouse in the administration; conservatives should expect neutrality? How do they think the immigration fight will be covered, particularly if the bill is delayed or blocked in the House? The focus will not be the Republicans who worked to pass the bill, but those who fought it. Whether the immigration bill passes as is, is further modified to reflect conservative concerns, or is blocked, it is likely to be used against Republicans in the 2014 midterms.


Conservatives seem to think that if President Obama’s poll numbers are slipping, then their views and the Republican Party are ascendant. Yet we are still over 16 months from the 2014 midterms, and given recent disappointments in Senate races due to blundering GOP nominees, it seems a bad idea to be optimistic about the party’s prospects in 2014. The Obama team decided that they could win a national reelection battle in 2012 by appealing to a collection of their bases — gays, African Americans, young voters, Hispanics, single women, environmentalists, union members, Asians, Jews, Muslims, the entertainment industry, and academics, to name a few — and getting them to vote while also driving down GOP turnout and support by character assassination of Mitt Romney. That strategy worked, and the president was re-elected despite a weak economic recovery, huge deficits, and modest approval levels for his policies.

Polls may show the liberal agenda and the president’s policies are unpopular, but this does not mean conservatives are winning the political battle.

Also read: Fox News Poll: Obama In Free-Fall


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