Retroactive Mandates

Last week TNR’s Brian Beutler strongly encouraged the White House to move ahead with executive action on immigration rather than delaying it until after the elections. So naturally Brian’s not real happy with the President’s decision on the subject, and fears now that if Republicans have a good November they’ll intimidate the administration into taking no action at all.

Whether you agree with Beutler’s specific contention or not, he makes a very good point generally about the choice Republicans will make about the “mandate” they will claim if all sorts of factors that have nothing to do with issues or their own public standing conspire to award them with control of the Senate. They could well be all over the map, with some arguing that red-state Senate wins mean Obamacare must be repealed, and others claiming voters want another Middle East war, and others attributing it to Benghazi! and the IRS “scandal,” and still others suggesting the American people have finally seen the wisdom of Constitutional Conservatism and are ready to rethink much of the 20th century.

Had Obama done as Beutler suggested, it’s very, very likely a disproportionate number of Republicans would have chosen to make their retroactive mandate all about immigration policy. A smaller number will do so now. Whether that’s good or bad for Democrats, Republicans, and the country will continue to be a matter of hot dispute.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.