Belmont Club

The Styrofoam Pillars Collapse

Washington (CNN) — In an election-year policy change, the Obama administration said Friday it will stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements. … Under the new policy, people younger than 30 who came to the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and were successful students or served in the military can get a two-year deferral from deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

Although most of the discussion around President Obama’s latest move will probably center around his authority to enact by executive authority what was the subject of pending Congressional legislation, the most interesting aspect of his decision is what it reflects about the collapsing special interest coalition that supports his administration. On the face of things the decision is all about November 2012.

For years the administration had said it didn’t have the authority to make such a move, saying it couldn’t decide to stop deporting wide categories of people on its own without approval from Congress. But on Friday Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she now interprets the law to give her this discretion.

The wholesale suspension of the law enforcement will be interpreted, together with the staunch resistance to voter ID checks, as an attempt to create a whole new class of Obama voters just in time for 2012. Or if not that, then it will at least be taken as a bribe to existing Latino voters to vote for the incumbent.  CBS News is already asking if “will this be a game-changer in November.”

But it is more than mere electioneering. It would be more accurate to say that President Obama’s latest selective non-enforcement suggests the political game as played has already changed as of right now.

It also indicates the demise of two other pillars on which had counted to carry him over the line. Both pillars failed under the weight of the economic crisis and necessitate their replacement by others.

Unions, long one of the pillars of the Democratic Party, have fallen into obvious disrepair. They relied in the past on government contracts or inflated pay scales to pump money from the taxpayer or other economic actors into their coffers. But they are a shadow of their former selves. The failure of the unions to overthrow Scott Walker in Wisconsin underscored their weakness; that,  followed by the manifest cooling between the unions and Obama, underscored the fragility of their loyalty in hard times.

That makes it possible — even imperative — for the president to create a new interest class to replace them. A class which will vote for him even if competes directly with the blue-collar constituency the unions represent. “There is now no fear,” said one person who was until a few moments ago, “illegal.”  He could go to work, he said. How long before the new class starts competing with the blue-collar constituency?

The other collapsing pillar is the entitlement system. Obamacare was designed to be a vast transfer of tax revenues, obtained from tax exemptions or shifts in expenditure from one set of economic actors to those which were politically allied to the president. But the deepening economic crisis, coupled with the possibility that the Obamacare itself may be struck down by the Supremes, means this tax transfer isn’t gonna happen.

You can’t “buy” people when there is nothing to buy them with. And this fact intensifies the administration’s search for new bases of support.

The other major special interest actors — the financial sector, the Greens, even the African American community in which the incumbent’s support is declining for the first time — have been paid off. In return, their potential has been tapped. No more sales there. The Greens have already cost him plenty for blocking the pipeline. And the African-Americans have been a long time without a job in his disastrous economy. He has presumed on them about as far as he can. And as for the banksters — well Obama will be hearing from them for the Nth time as soon as the “storm clouds from Europe” that Axelrod ominously described cross the Atlantic.

Taken together, they mean the premium aisles of the candy store have been shut down by hard times or sold out. All that is left for the administration to peddle are the cheapest items in the store. Stuff he can only sell to illegal aliens and those in similar circumstances. People who’ll be grateful for crumbs. But he’ll sell that.

Of almost equal interest is the fact that the success of this ploy relies upon the hound-like loyalty of people like Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder to implement it. Not only is the political core of the current administration shrinking, but so is the bureaucratic base that it can safely employ to carry it out.

None of this bodes well for “civility.” The president has been progressively upping the ante, driven in part by the determination of his ideological supporters to go that one last step toward Hope and Change but driven even more urgently by the relentlessly ticking clock and the progressively declining bank balance. The president is running out of both the time and money needed to stay in power. The only thing he can try now is the long pass. The midcourt shot.

The Daily Kos/SEIU released the results of a poll which showed that “nearly half of voters believe that Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jump start the economy to ensure that President Barack Obama is not re-elected.”  There are calls for “treasonous Republicans” to be put on trial for sabotaging the economy.

Playing the Game of Thrones

In that situation, many things can go wrong. Ralph Peters reminds us America still has foreign enemies; and that is a dangerous thing to contemplate when the incumbent is in the process of selling everything that isn’t nailed down. He writes that “the low point of the American presidency over the past half-century wasn’t Watergate, which is almost trivial compared to the corruption of the Obama administration, from treasonous leaks of classified material to the Justice Department’s assault on honest elections. No, my fellow Americans, the lowest point of the presidency occurred a few months back when President Obama, caught by a microphone he didn’t know was hot, told Russia’s then-president, now prime-minister, Dimitry Medvedev to relay to strong-man Vladimir Putin a request for patience. Essentially, Obama said he needed time to fool the American people until the November elections then he could cut the deals that Putin wanted.”

This suspicion may be an injustice to the president or it may not. As the president said, “the notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive.” But the point in citing Peter’s article is that the political game is now offense all the time every time, at least from the Democratic Party side. Things have not been at such a pitch since the 1960s and perhaps going even further back.

That elevated temperature can result in a runaway thermal reaction, driven by uncontrolled feedback, unless interrupted by the elections or dampened by a buffer. Whatever else his legacy might be, President Obama has been a transformational figure both in Democratic Party and broader national political terms. If he does not lay the capstone of the New Deal, he will preside over its ruins.

The pitch of the national debate has now been raised to a higher frequency and a higher energy state. That was the inevitable result of Wisconsin, the financial crisis and the chaotic international situation. And it’s not over yet. The months till November promise to be eventful in both international and domestic terms.

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