09/08/2014 05:05 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2014

Executive Action Delay: A Gift to the GOP?


Just a few weeks ago, as House Republican leaders voted to return young Dreamers to the shadows, political pundits were writing obituaries for the GOP over their handling of immigration politics. A story was developing that President Obama's executive action would so infuriate House Republicans that many would fall over themselves attacking the move through legislation or litigation and, in the process, further alienate the rising Latino demographic and sewing up the Latino vote for the Democratic party for decades to come.

Establishment Republicans were indeed afraid.

The president could lay his trap just before the mid-term elections and bait tea-party Congressional Republicans into public displays of embarrassing madness centered on threats of impeachment and talk of government shutdowns. Displays of Republican lawmakers fuming over the president providing relief for hard-working immigrant families would endear Latinos to the president, mobilize Democratic base voters in the mid-terms, bring more independent voters seeking sanity in Washington to the Democratic column, and turn Hispanics permanently anti-Republican.

Republicans can rest easy, there's another party with operatives who appear to be even more short-sighted than they are. It turns out Democratic operatives proved to be much less interested in making long-term political gains in 2016 and beyond. These operatives convinced the president that doing nothing on immigration before Election Day was best for the Democratic Party and the president agreed by issuing a delay.

With an indefinite delay of executive action for immigrants, the story line has now shifted dramatically. Those who envisioned the potential that a pre-election announcement of executive action could have for the Democratic Party had the keen insight that whatever the president did would have defining implications for both political parties.

No one can say for sure what, if anything, the president will do on immigration after the election. Should he act with a bold and sweeping announcement, perhaps he will be forgiven for putting politics ahead of relieving human suffering. Who knows? That said, in the Latino community two things are clear about the immediate political implications of the president's delay -- the GOP dodged a lethal bullet while the Democratic Party shot itself in the foot.

After November the GOP will have a great opportunity to showcase national political leaders who espouse great respect for the hard-working Hispanic community, those leaders may hold or express more moderate views on immigration policy than their tea party congressional colleagues and still aggressively oppose the president's executive action on safe constitutional grounds. The party can redefine itself, absent the images of hysteria we might have seen.

In the big picture, this was an incredible turn of events. Riding confidently on the demographic wave of ascendant young and Latino voters, it was Democratic Party leaders who appeared composed and mature in their long term thinking, while Republican leaders resembled dogs chasing their tails in an effort to navigate the politics of immigration and think beyond this cycle. And just when the opportunity presented itself, when Democrats found themselves standing on the verge of possibly cementing a long-term hold on the Latino vote, they decided to disregard the needs of the community for ill-conceived notions of what it will take to hold on to the Senate.