The land of the free and the home of delay

Obama backs down on immigration reform, reveals disappointing but unsurprising lack of political temerity

Politics have once again obstructed progress in the White House, as President Barak Obama gave in to political maneuvering and manipulation, announcing he would not use his executive powers to enact immigration reform.

Despite promising (a word that apparently means little in D.C.) to make sweeping changes to the nation’s immigration system and sharply criticizing Republican politicization of the issue, Obama has allowed the obstruction he so fervently denounced to stop him in his tracks.

The president doesn’t deserve all the blame – his actions are both caused by and emblematic of a toxic political environment generated by conservatives and liberals alike that prioritizes partisan gamesmanship over legitimate change.

According to administration officials, Obama and his aides determined that taking action on immigration as promised would anger Republicans and threaten Democratic control of the Senate as midterm elections loom. It’s a familiar, monotonous song and dance, and one that begs the question: What’s the point of maintaining the political majority if the authority it generates is never used for anything beyond reinforcing the status quo?

The torpid pace at which political progress occurs is infuriating in any context. But when swift, authoritative – even executive – action is dangled in front of an eagerly awaiting audience like a carrot they can’t quite reach, the wait feels especially torturous.

As headlines consistently remind Americans of the many serious issues surrounding border security and deportation, and as migrant children sit in detainment centers at the border, the need for decisive action appears pressing.

And yet, Obama feels comfortable stalling.

There will always be a reason to wait – an election around the corner, an unfriendly Senate, a changing political landscape. But Obama should know better than to legitimize any of those reasons. Prioritizing politicians’ complaints over immigrants’ pressing needs sends a clear and dooming message to all those who bought into the president’s campaign promises.

In 2008, it was “Change,” and two years later: “Forward.” Now, Obama can only offer stagnation and sameness. Let’s see that splashed onto posters and flags. It may not be catchy, but at least it’s honest.

The American people need to remain strong in the face of Obama’s weakness and demonstrate an unwillingness to forgive and forget. Even if the president comes through in November, the delay generated by Obama’s broken promise should remain on Americans’ minds.

Obama needs to know that the American people have high expectations – that we’re not willing to simply take what we can get, that we won’t abide by “it’s better than nothing.” When the president makes a promise, he needs to deliver. The standard has been set, and Obama should be held to it.

If Obama wants to prove to Americans that he cares about immigration more than partisanship (and really, does he?) and that he can keep his promises (and really, can he?), right now, he’s failing on both counts.