By Mark Esposito
Chastened by the “Mandate of the Mid-terms’? Hardly. Doubling down on his confrontation with Republicans who control both houses of Congress but lacking a veto proof super majority, Barack Obama has decided to give Americans a real policy choice. Eschewing the “work-it-out, concede where you have to” mentality that has drawn the ire of progressives and conservatives alike, the President has decided to contest the notion that Americans sent Republican values to Washington along with the Republican representatives.
First on the agenda, immigration reform which he promises will come in the form of Executive Order. Even the most jaded conservative Congressional historian has to conclude that this Congress has abdicated on the issue in favor of partisan (and likely racial) demagoguery leaving the fate of 12 million undocumented aliens swinging in the balance. A curious stance given the rise of Hispanic voters who comprise the same ethnicity as many of those undocumented workers.
“That’s gonna happen. That’s gonna happen before the end of the year,” says the Commander-in-Chief with not a hint of “please, pretty-please.”
Second, protecting Obamacare. Despite polls showing overwhelming support for the main struts underpinning the health care initiative, Republican lawmakers, appealing to their reactionary base, have named this Public Enemy Number 1. From incessant court challenges to dissemination of videos showing supporters insulting the intelligence of voters, the conservative agents of no change – never have decided they know best — in service to the monied interests that have co-opted health care to the profit motive. Obama says he welcomes the legal challenge which appears headed to the Republican-dominated Supreme Court given the split among the Circuits. CJ Roberts on the tetherhooks again? It seems likely.
Lastly, the Keystone XL pipeline which has been excoriated by environmentalists and progressives faces an almost certain veto. The pipe would “run from Alberta’s tar-sands fields through Montana and South Dakota to link up with the system in Steele City, Nebraska. It would transport bitumen and liquefied natural gas drawn from the tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, mainly in Texas.” This addition to an existing pipeline does almost nothing to add resources to an America awash in shale oil. A plummeting demand in world oil demand makes the pipeline less than superfluous. It adds nothing to the job market and more than one observer, including the prestigious Global Labor Institute at Cornell University, thinks it would kill as many jobs as it produces.
The big beef is that it adds to America’s dependence on foreign oil if you can believe it. But in the salons of the world’s big money it makes perfect sense.The project is funded by multi-nationals including the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia (PDF) who obviously wants to foster American oil independence, right? And of course, China, our inscrutable “ally,” who just deployed their most formidable air craft carrier, too, is a prime beneficiary investing billions in Canadian oil sands. Another piece-meal sale of America to profit the rich at detriment of the national interest. Obama says “no.”
Bull-headedness? Actually, a pretty savvy political strategy to give the 66% of America who didn’t vote earlier this month a taste of Tea Party America courtesy of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. For a President once derided as too weak and willing to compromise, it’s a redefining moment of political courage and adherence to the principles a lot of people questioned whether he really believed in or not .
Now fully subscribed, Obama, stands at the great precipice between a legacy of great success and miserable failure. It’s the country that is watching and we like challenges between great social forces. Bring it on — and let it define us, too.