As Nevadans Wait, Obama Angles for CIR

Nevada is already gearing up for its primary elections, which will be among the earliest in the country when they are held on June 8. Candidates vying for office in Reno, Las Vegas, Elko, Carson City, and throughout the state have already been actively campaigning on a variety of issues, and many of the state contests promise to reflect Nevadans’ outlook on national politics. Indeed, all eyes are on the national stage as Democrats attempt to push through myriad changes before the 2010 election, including comprehensive immigration reform to address the nation’s twelve million illegal aliens.

The first year of Barack Obama’s presidency was a stormy one, and our readers know that the fight over healthcare reform dominated all other issues. Since the passage of a much-compromised healthcare reform package in March, Obama seems to have a new spring in his step and has proposed a slate of initiatives that defies the conventional wisdom that — in an election year, with poll numbers dipping, with senior Democrats embattled — this is no time to rock the boat.

Yet Obama may simply be looking two steps down the path and doing what is most politically shrewd. Consider his nomination this week of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court that will be left by retiring Justice John Paul Stevens: Kagan seems to be a savvy political choice for two reasons.

First, one of the few controversies surrounding Kagan is her defense Harvard Law School’s policy of banning military recruiters from campus, in part because of the continuation of the increasingly unpopular “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regulating homosexuality in military service. Symbolically, then, Kagan’s nomination is another gesture by Obama to the LGBTQ community in the United States; Obama’s failure to end DADT, get new federal equal rights legislation passed, or take any other substantive action on behalf of this community has threatened to cost him the enthusiasm (if not the support) of one of the backbones of his presidential campaign. Obama may hope that he can appease the LGBTQ community with several small improvements even if he cannot yet deliver a major victory.

Second, Obama’s nomination of Kagan is a blatant concession. Obama’s political base is infuriated because they feel that Kagan does not offer a strong enough liberal voice to counter the Supreme Court’s conservative tilt. Others on the political left complain that Kagan has been a steady advocate for the Obama Administration’s continuation of Bush-era exercises of Executive Branch power and heavy-handed military policy. But by conceding a hard fight on Kagan’s appointment, Obama may think he has cleared the way for productive conversations on immigration reform, financial reform, climate change, and other domestic issues in advance of the November general elections. (Yet even this may be mistaken. Although Obama may think that he can purchase Republican cooperation at the price of preemptive compromise, recent history indicates that this is only a delusion.)

Only time will tell how savvy Obama’s calculations have been — Kagan will likely be confirmed, but it is unknown how deeply (and hypocritically, if we remember Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers) Republicans will oppose her appointment. Will the Right calm down and seek compromise with Obama at long last? Will the Left finally fizzle out and leave the polls empty in November? We cannot know at this time, but in a twisted, complex way the current momentum seems to be moving toward the immigration reform that our readers know this country needs. Keep checking back for new post, and if you have any questions about how immigration reform can impact you or your loved ones call us for a free consultation.

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