Jonathan Chait makes an observation that is probably kind of obvious to political junkies but that is, nonetheless, the explanation for both why the Republicans haven’t been punished for their obstruction and why they’re floundering on the immigration issue.

“The GOP has withheld cooperation from every major element of President Obama’s agenda, beginning with the stimulus, through health-care reform, financial regulation, the environment, long-term debt reduction, and so on. That stance has worked extremely well as a political strategy. Most people pay little attention to politics and tend to hold the president responsible for outcomes. If Republicans turn every issue into an intractable partisan scrum, people get frustrated with the status quo and take out their frustration on the president’s party. It’s a formula, but it works.”

“The formula only fails to work if the president happens to have an easy and legal way to act on the issue in question without Congress. Obama can’t do that on infrastructure, or the grand bargain, and he couldn’t do it on health care. But he could do it on immigration. So Republicans were stuck carrying out a strategy whose endgame would normally be ‘bill fails, public blames Obama’ that instead wound up ‘Obama acts unilaterally, claims credit, forces Republicans to take poisonous stance in opposition.’ They had grown so accustomed to holding all the legislative leverage, they couldn’t adapt to a circumstance where they had none.”

I’m not certain that the Republicans won’t wind up getting away with being wrong on immigration, too, but at least it doesn’t fit into the same old of making government suck in order to prove to the electorate that the government sucks and should be stripped down to its studs.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at