Postmodern Conservative

Where’s the Leadership?

It increasingly looks like Obama will issue the Big Amnesty order, likely this very week. Here’s descriptions from Ross Douthat and Jonathan Tobin of its breathtakingly anti-democratic, polarizing, and unconstitutional character. And here is a Wahington Post account that reads like a liberal legacy-media account, the sort that many of your fellow citizens are letting themselves be guided by, that tries to reduce the controversy to one about (a) immigration policy and (b) relations between Obama and the Republicans in Congress – i.e., it does much to avoid framing the issue as one about the Constitution.  

So that’s it, then? Another excuse for another one of those funding and shutdown battles, eh?  

Everything in me wants to scream against that. And the strategist in me wants to caution most gravely that Obama is likely not done with taking unconstitutional executive-order actions, which means the day after Big Amnesty, on top of calculating any retaliation against it or blocking of its implementation, we have to begin strategizing about how to prevent him from doing more and more of such actions.  

Will we let Big Amnesty go down in our history as something never challenged in any clear way as an unconstitutional abomination of the first order? Are there plans for any big protest? Discussion of whether to oppose ever granting voting rights to those so amnestied?  Does any conservative leader prepare citizens for what comes next?

Well, on NRO, Andrew McCarthy does. There’s Douthat’s work at the New York Times, although he has avoided ever recommending impeachment or the threat of it. But that’s about it. Oh, there undoubtedly are some more obscure writers, such as yours truly, who dwell upon the issue, but have we seen the big conservative outlets linking our commentaries? Pursuing major reporting on the issue? Discussing a menu of possible GOP responses? Nope.

Boehner tells us “we’re going to fight this tooth and nail,” and that “all options are on the table.” Okay. Thank you for saying that.  And maybe you do have some cool procedural weapons that you masterminds confer about in secret. But the public, meantime, is reduced to waiting to see what you will unveil.  Below that story I read some anonymous conservative’s comment: ”If the GOP leadership allows this to stand, they’ll be ruined.”  

Well, as far as I can tell, it is going to stand, and all the drama about government shut-down will, by itself, amount to little but a confusion.  Had the GOP organized a pledge to impeach in response to Big Amnesty, as I called for many months ago, and again last week, we could begin pursuing that without the shame of giving the public no warning of our intention. Had the GOP at least not discouraged its members from admitting the obvious fact that their constituents were talking about impeachment, perhaps such a pledge could have been quickly organized after November 4. But now? Heck, now, we aren’t even in a position to force the legacy media to take note of half the nation’s deep anger over this. Obama will do it, and a thousand editorials that only conservatives read will denounce it.

Does anyone organize a letter campaign?  Lay the groundwork for big protest actions? Does anyone give the conservative base a stinkin’ thing to do? I guess we’re supposed to just wait until after the order is given, and after the GOP honchos have had their meeting about how to respond. Meantime, the impression we’re all giving our fellow Americans is that we regard this as politics as per usual.  

I’m not directing my accusation here solely against McConnell and Boehner. I think their legislative pro-amnesty gamesmanship has been a disaster in several ways, but I feel, as I think think most conservatives do by now, used to it.  I expect it.  They are at least noble enough men to resent the blackmail Obama has threatened them with, and American enough to be aghast at the naked unconstitutionality of his proposed order.  Yes, their elitist approach to the “immigration issue” has now put them in an unprepared and unconvincing position to lead with respect to the core issue here, that is, the constitutional one, but this is not a surprise.

So the ones I most denounce for leadership failure are top conservatives across the land, in conservative media, think-tanks, political organizations, etc. I’d guess that at least a third of these people disagreed with the way Boehner his ilk continued, after repeated rejections, to pursue an immigration deal repugnant to most of the conservative base. So why didn’t these ones begin to make noise, or otherwise prepare for action? And why couldn’t even some in the “Boehner camp” have tried to forcefully distinguish between the policy issue and the constitutional one? The approach of this monstrosity has been visible for months. The pattern of take-care-clause violations, ones with lower stakes, has been unfolding since 2012 and rather obviously so from the summer of 2013 on. And as of today, I know of no organized group action to stop it, either from inside or outside the official GOP and conservative organizations. Why don’t I? On comment thread after comment thread, in poll after poll, evidence of astonishment and anger about Big Amnesty is seen again and again. Is there no “entrepreneur,” either as politician, organizer, or media-salesman, who has stepped up to serve such sentiments? Or, why haven’t we heard about them?  Perhaps Peter Spiliakos or someone else who understands the GOP and national conservative organizations better than I could explain why.

And no, the mere fear of uttering the “I”-word prior to an election cannot fully explain what’s going on here.  

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru proposes a decent selective defunding plan here. It has the key merit of simplicity, although it is still unclear to me how far existing funding would allow Obama to implement the order anyhow. So perhaps good news, that. Another bright spot amid the darkening gloom is the Washington Post’s editorial forcefully opposing the order. If only more liberal editorial pages had spoken so much sooner, but good for the WaPo nonetheless.  


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