Articles

The President Defies The Voters

November 12, 2014

The week since the midterms has been good for Republicans. The GOP gained a 53rd senator as Dan Sullivan was declared the winner in Alaska on Wednesday. The party seems on its way to a 54th seat in Louisiana. Republican candidates took 56% on Election Day. On Monday the two Republicans who won nearly 15% endorsed fellow Republican Bill Cassidy. He is the front-runner going into the Dec. 6 runoff.

Final exit polls were also encouraging for the GOP. Texas Sen. John Cornyn won 48% of Hispanic voters, while Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott took 44%. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback each took 47% of Hispanics, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott won 38%. Nationally, the GOP won 36% of Hispanic voters, up from Mitt Romney ’s 27% share in 2012.

Republicans carried the Asian vote 50%-49%, better than the 40%-58% split in 2010. Despite the Democratic “war on women” rhetoric, 47% of women voters chose Republicans compared with 44% in 2012. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts, and Sen.-elect Tom Cotton won 50% or more of women.

There’s also movement among younger voters: Millennials (those aged 18 to 29) gave Republicans 43%, up from 37% in 2012.

Yet some Democrats, led by President Obama, blame defeat on a failed communications strategy rather than unpopular policies. If only non-voters had come out, Mr. Obama seemed to suggest in a press conference on Nov. 5, the results would have been different. They might have been, but maybe many voters stayed home because they didn’t want to encourage him.

The president’s refusal to listen to the voters’ message—that they want him reined in and many of his policies stopped—will lead him to make more unnecessary mistakes. Nowhere is that clearer than on immigration.

Following the election, Mr. Obama threatened that if the House does not pass an immigration bill the Senate approved last year, he will issue an executive order next month that may exempt millions of illegal immigrants from the law, allowing them to remain here indefinitely.

There are two problems with his demand. First, the House will not pass the Senate immigration reform bill, even if most Republicans agreed with all of it, which they do not. It is preposterous for the president to assume the Senate can dictate every line in major legislation to the House. Virtually every major piece of legislation has had differences in the versions passed by the House and Senate that were worked out in a conference committee.

Second, with the holiday season fast approaching there are only four workweeks left in 2014. Congress would normally be in session 12 days, 20 if they worked Monday to Friday. That’s not enough time to erase the backlog of essential pending bills and nominations, pass a spending measure to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, and then take up immigration.

Moreover, House Speaker John Boehner wants the House to work in regular order. This means subcommittees and committees grind through hearings and negotiations to draft bills, consider amendments, hone language and bring legislation to the floor. The Senate immigration bill is 1,200-pages long. Does Mr. Obama really expect the House to craft complex laws in a matter of days? Americans saw how badly that turned out with ObamaCare.

Provoking a constitutional crisis would prove anew Mr. Obama’s willingness to divide America for political gain. Republicans already have plenty of reasons to distrust him. Carrying through on his threat to suspend the law would obliterate the president’s chances for any further significant legislative achievements in the remainder of his administration.

If Mr. Obama proceeds anyway, Republicans should use every available legislative tool to undo his unlawful actions, including going to court. But when making their case, Republicans must be firm but not angry and stop hot-tempered Republicans in Congress from demanding impeachment. Mr. Obama can win politically if Republicans become so enraged that they overreact.

If the president mishandles immigration, Americans will have little expectation he will better handle other issues. His approval numbers will decline further, even possibly among disappointed Hispanics. What’s left of his faltering presidency depends on what Mr. Obama does now.

A version of this article appeared November 13, 2014, in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline The President Defies The Voters and online at WSJ.com.

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