Lowered Expectations Win for Obama
His "Don't ask, don't tell" gambit may garner votes. Can his immigration strategy sway Latinos?
When Obama got "shellacked" in the 2010 midterms, "Don't ask, don't tell" looked like it was headed for the political back burner. Then a month later, it was repealed after Obama struck a tax-cut deal with GOP leaders -- but not before three of his four joint chiefs of staff had already come out in favor of repeal. Because his timing was right, Obama not only won the vote in Congress; he also settled the issue of gays in the military once and for all in the minds of the military brass and the public at large.
By contrast, in his fight over health care reform, the president waged a messy, public battle with congressional Republicans and skeptics in his own party for nine straight months and wound up with a legislative package that left supporters dissatisfied, opponents in a permanent state of attack and most of the public thoroughly confused.
Had he attempted to force immigration reform through Congress at that same time, it could have easily failed -- as it did when President George W. Bush touted it -- or suffered the same fate as Obamacare, passing on a narrow party-line vote and then pitting undocumented immigrants against the anger of a rising Tea Party.
It's a cautionary tale for voters, Latino or otherwise, who want immigration reform to succeed.
Obviously, Latinos aren't single-issue voters or a monolithic voting bloc. Like everyone else, Ramos notes, they care about "getting a good job, schools for their children and access to doctors and hospitals." And if the issues are jobs, health care and Afghanistan, then the Latino voter's calculus is the same as it is for any voter -- some will choose Obama, and others will go with whoever winds up being the Republican alternative.
But as Ramos says, for Latinos, immigration is "very, very personal." And on that issue, it's probably too soon for Ramos -- or Latino voters -- to throw their hands up and say Obama "failed us." Just because he hasn't tackled immigration reform doesn't mean he's abandoned immigration reform. And considering his track record, there's no reason to assume that he will.
David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.