Barack Obama came out fighting last night in his State of the Union and made it clear that issues such as immigration reform are still very much on his agenda.
It was great to see the Commander in Chief recapture some of the fire and fury that brought him to the White House in the first place. For too long he has seemed a prisoner of the office, tentative, not bold, afraid to shake up the cosy consensus that passes for policy these days.
On immigration reform he was clear that he will pursue what has become one of the most contentious issues of his presidency. For tens of thousands of undocumented Irish his message was good news
He also knows that the huge Hispanic lobby has sat back quietly and allowed him to long finger the legislation but their patience is running out. A recent poll showed that 62 per cent of Hispanics, a key voting block for Obama, have urged him to introduce the immigration reform legislation that he has promised.
"If Obama breaks the one major promise he made to Latino voters -- to deliver comprehensive immigration reform -- this will make it tough for him to face the Latino community as he campaigns for re-election," wrote Rubin Navarette the influential columnist a few days ago. "And Democrats can't afford a sizable bloc of voters becoming so disillusioned with Obama's version of 'hope and change' that they don't turn out to help re-elect him."
Exactly. Obama is also fortunate that he has one of the best political operators around, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, leading the way on this legislation.
Schumer knows it has to have a bipartisan approach and that he needs to work across the aisle, which he has certainly committed to do.
He also knows average Americans have to feel like there is a correct balance between enforcement and legalization, a carrot-and-stick approach that will find that vital consensus and give the bill widespread support.
Obama has certainly now publicly committed to the Schumer model in the State of the Union. Hopefully legislation will now follow. Last night was a good start.
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