Quietly and under the radar, President Obama has been making some very smart political moves through the use of executive orders in an effort to repair the damage his administration’s extreme deportation rate has done to the president’s political relationship with the Latino community. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who has been critical of the president’s immigration policy, dates Obama’s new focus on immigration issues to an appearance last July before the National Council of La Raza. As Obama was trying to convince Latino activists that he didn’t really have any power to change the immigration process without congressional help, the crowd responded vocally by chanting, “Yes, you can. Yes, you can.” “I think at that point [Obama aides] said, ‘You know what? We can,’” Gutierrez said. And Obama has since renewed his focus on immigration and has been quietly using executive orders to bypass congress and effect some real “change” on his own as well as pushing a “We Can’t Wait” campaign regarding immigration within the Latino community.
Latino activists have learned the lesson gay activists seem to be forgetting. Politicians, the president being no exception, don’t do anything unless they have to. But when their back is against the wall and they need your vote to survive, they will move heaven and earth to placate you. The gay community had already learned that lesson once before, but lately, it seems as though we have developed amnesia. When activists were unhappy that Obama kept dragging his feet on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and they began chaining themselves to the White House fence (and folks started talking about shutting down the “GayTM” of financial donations to the DNC) the Obama administration responded with action. But now that the presidential elections are once again on the horizon many of Obama’s gay supporters have become upset when activists point to Obama’s continued inaction on the issues of equality. His supporters point to the Republicans and say that we should all fall in line behind Obama, despite his failings, because the Republicans would be even worse. Yet the Latino community faces much the same problem and they did not cower – they doubled down on their ideals and spoke truth to power! And Obama caved and starting producing results.
The Obama administration is now planning a “charm offensive” with a series of conferences with the gay community. We would be well advised to take a note from the Latino community. Now is not the time to cower and acquiesce. Now is time to be brave and DEMAND equality! When Obama tells us he can’t do anything else – we must call out his lies! When Obama refuses to support marriage equality – we must refuse to support his re-election. Just as Obama is now using the power of executive orders to make changes to the immigration policy that the Latino community wants; there are also executive orders that Obama could sign today that would give employment protections to both civilian and gay military members. Obama could also sign an executive order to mandate the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class under military non-discrimination clauses. There is MUCH he could be doing right now but he won’t do anything unless we demand it. And if Obama has proven anything, he has proven that when faced with unyielding pressure, he caves. Equality is within our grasp but we must have the courage and resolve to reach out and take it!