THE BLOG
11/25/2014 12:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

GOP Says Obama Pushes Popular Immigration Policies to Win Votes. Er, That's Called Democracy.

I'm finding that sometimes Republican arguments don't exactly make 100 percent sense. Any of you out there finding that? Okay, enough with the understatements. Republican politicians and right-wing talking heads have long criticized President Obama for what they call pandering to Latinos over immigration, as demonstrated by his support for comprehensive immigration reform, as well as his previous executive actions and the one he announced on Thursday.

Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin have all charged the president with pandering on immigration. Just after this month's midterms, Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership at the conservative American Principles Project, accused Democrats of pandering to Hispanic voters, in particular in Colorado, during the fall campaign. Going further, Javier Manjarres, writing at Breitbart.com this summer, accused the Democrats of pandering on immigration and looped it back into a broader attack on the party's entire approach to policy:

The name of the immigration reform game for Democrats is 'pander for votes.' Democrats are banking on amnesty for illegal immigrants because they believe those immigrants would eventually vote along Democrat Party lines. Democrats will undoubtedly offer these illegal immigrants the entire gambit of Obama goodies and entitlements.

By the way, Mitt Romney echoed this absurd notion in a post-mortem on why he lost in 2012, talking about the "gifts" President Obama had supposedly given to black and Hispanic Americans, as well as young people. Back to immigration where, for good measure, we also had Ron Fournier -- no liberal -- who didn't exactly accuse Obama of pandering on immigration but instead said that Hispanics would see his actions as pandering. This is a perfect "middle approach" for Fournier, who after all doesn"t like partisanship.

We have Rep. Michele Bachmann on more than one occasion coming right out and saying that President Obama will "with a wink and a nod" allow undocumented immigrants who aren't citizens to vote. Our old friend Rep. Louie Gohmert is making noises about the president wanting to "bring in hundreds of thousands or millions of people" to vote Democrat -- and no sweat if they don't have ID, thanks to Obama. Don't worry, it's not just members of Congress. Arizona's always good for a lively discussion of immigration. Their attorney general, Tom Horne, made a similar, albeit less specific claim, noting: "The more illegals that vote, the better the Obama administration thinks it will do." Lovely.

I guess charging Obama with pandering by supporting immigration reform is better than charging him with concocting a plan to allow undocumented immigrants to commit massive voter fraud. But that's an awfully low bar to clear.

Anyway, these Republican charges of pandering leave me with some questions about their basic understanding of democracy. In a democracy, how exactly is it wrong for citizens to: a) express their views on a topic or topics, b) then figure out which politicians and parties support those views, c) then vote for the ones who do, and d) then vote for them again as a show of support after they've enacted those polices?

When Republicans, for example, cut taxes for the wealthy because that's what the wealthy want, and then the wealthy vote overwhelmingly for Republicans, is that pandering? More broadly, when Republican policy positions on economic matters mirror the priorities of the wealthy, priorities that diverge quite strongly from those held by the rest of America, is that pandering? I certainly don't think Republicans would agree.

And on a related note, when Republicans accuse the president not only of looking to pad Democratic vote totals by doing the bidding of the Latino community, but also of somehow rigging the game by bringing in all these new, "illegal" voters, it's all just part of their bogus voter fraud/voter ID strategy. In reality, it is Republicans who are looking to rig the game by throwing out charges of non-existent voter fraud as a justification for enacting laws that will disenfranchise a set of voters that they know are disproportionately going to vote Democratic. Shocking, isn't it, that Republicans project what they are doing on their opponents.

However, the issue at hand here is immigration. Republicans themselves have admitted that they worry about losing Latino and Asian voters because of their anti-immigration stance. Remember how, after Romney lost, there was all that talk about Republicans needing to shift on immigration? Even Sean Hannity (!) came out for a "pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants. Were they pandering in hopes of getting the Latino vote? Was John Boehner subsequently pandering to the GOP's anti-immigrant, tea party core when he prevented the House from even considering comprehensive reform legislation passed, in bipartisan fashion, by the Senate?

And to whom exactly was Ronald Reagan pandering when at a 1984 presidential debate watched by over 67 million viewers, he declared:

I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.

And yes, the executive action on immigration that President Obama implemented this past week exactly parallels what President Reagan did in 1987, when he deferred deportation for a group of the undocumented, a group that Congress specifically left out of the immigration reform law it passed a year earlier. The spokesperson for Reagan's Immigration and Naturalization Service said that they were doing so for "humanitarian" reasons. Additionally, the executive action taken by George H.W. Bush in 1990 granted work permits to about 40 percent of all the undocumented immigrants in the country at that time, comparable to the 45 percent of today's undocumented helped by Obama's action. Damn Republican panderers.

Republicans can scream all they want about pandering, or about process. The reality is that the kind of immigration reform supported by President Obama is popular with the American people. Supporting a policy that has strong, majority support not only from Latinos or Asians but Americans overall isn't pandering to anyone. It's called democracy.