President Obama has put Identity Politics on display with his attempt to put forward an immigration policy (and having that being questioned by Neil Munro from the Daily Caller) that would selectively not enforce immigration law upon certain categories of illegal aliens. Unfortunately as Congress has already debated and not passed versions of such laws, President Obama has forgotten that his duty is to uphold the laws set by Congress as this is an Article I power given to Congress and not delegated as a policy issue to the President. Presidents can have 'feelings' about laws, but the job of the President is to enforce the laws of Congress and to let Congress know when he thinks such laws have problems and work with Congress to get such laws amended. That is the job of President as Head of Government: execute the laws set by Congress.
Now, beyond the fact there is no Constitutional standing for a President to set such a policy, this move can also be seen in the Identity Politics prism as a crass play (and one known by President Obama as not being able to stand a legal challenge, but that would take time) to pander to Hispanic voters. When playing the Identity Politics game, however, an action to try and get support from one group can often show insight into how a politician views other groups within his or her support domain. In other words, such a policy direction will give an insight into how other groups that traditionally support the Democratic Party are being viewed by President Obama.
A few groups come to mind for this:
1) Big Labor – In theory the Labor Unions would love to have new, young Hispanics as part of the dues paying membership. Unfortunately the timing of events is such that with the defeat of the Big Labor led recall vote in WI of Gov. Scott Walker, and by the direction of Public Employee Unions (and general labor law) amongst other States such as IN, IL, NY, CA... note that these are not typical 'Red' States... and having asked for and not gotten President Obama to show up on their behalf in WI, Big Labor is getting a message from President Obama: Nice knowing you, send cash!
Unfortunately no matter how many new, young Hispanics come in, the general tenor of the population towards Unionization (not just PEUs but all Unions) is in the decline and in the modern era of being able to compare job offers, individuals can often find a better job without Union overhead than one with Union overhead. Putting in a raft of new, young illegal aliens and helping them to find work in preference to Citizens also means that these individuals will tend to be at the lowest end of the pay scale and not readily amenable to Unionization. Plus in shops where low skills and low costs are needed, these individuals will be in direct competition with Unionized labor. While there are pipe dreams from Big Labor on getting a perennial raft of new union members, the fact is that unions are being side-lined to a very small part of the work force over the last 5 decades and are now in single digits for percentage of the overall workforce.
2) Hispanics – Even with a naked pander, this is something that if the Democratic Party wanted to get done in 2009-2010 it could have done so as it had majorities in both Houses of Congress. Any promises made by Democrats are, thusly, coming with a built-in discount on future expectations: if you can't pass this as law when you have both Houses and the Presidency, then what good are you? Naked pandering can back-fire if it is seen as an insult to the intelligence of those being pandered to, and that is the risk of this piece of political calculus by President Obama.
The other factor that plays into the identity politics game is that Hispanics are in the majority Roman Catholic. In passing Obamacare and then setting it up as part of a 'War on Women' on mandatory payment for contraceptive services, the process of Obamacare is running straight into a 1st Amendment clash with religious organizations that provide health care, and the main point on this pushback is... the Roman Catholic Church. It is a piece of political calculus to try and bring religious implementation of moral doctrine into secular domains, against all the protections against such in the US Constitution, and by taking on the RCC the Obama Administration also ends up taking on Hispanics. As this is an ongoing set of legal battles, they do not fade from the view of the devout, and President Obama can be seen as giving the back of his hand to religious moral teachings while trying to offer a carrot on immigration policy. Being coerced and cajoled to just 'play along with the man' is not a good recipe for success especially when you have railed about the excesses of the power structure when out of office. By taking up such means beyond what is given as law, President Obama also then brings into play another splinter of Identity Politics.
3) Legal Immigrants – Play by the rules and uphold the systems. Those who apply to become citizens, learn civics and then demonstrate what they know to get citizenship are having their hard work demeaned by President Obama who is offering goodies to those who refuse (for whatever reason) to join the legal system and play by the rules. It doesn't matter how long they have been in the US, who brought them, or any other thing: once they are adults they are given adult decisions to make and must act as a good citizen of their Nation of origin. Legal immigrants do this, they uphold the Law of Nations and domestic law by doing this. Illegal aliens do not do this and erode the Law of Nations and domestic law of the US and any Nation that has treaty obligations with the US on immigration. No matter how 'nice' someone is, there is a difference between upholding the law and not upholding it, and special favors are not to be given to those who do not uphold the law as a matter of policy.
Since a large number of Hispanic families are first or second generation of legal immigrants, they have a large stake in upholding the legal process and are demeaned by being told that now they shouldn't have done the right thing and followed the law and that those not following the law will be granted special protection from the law by not having it applied equally to them. If a President is short of funds and personnel to uphold the laws set by Congress he needs to say so and send the ball back into Congress' court to either find more funds, amend the law or change the enforcement of it to fit the will of Congress.
4) Poor Working Citizens – If you are poor and still have a job in this economic climate, you are in a select class of people that are doing the hard scrabble work of providing for your family to keep their heads above water. Now with a change of enforcement policy, you will be competing against illegal aliens who can undercut your pay (albeit under the table, but that is a problem of getting employers to follow the law) and take your job while being protected from deportation by the federal government. The working poor are on the front lines of this problem and if citizenship is demeaned for them, and special favors and protections are given to those who do not follow the system, then those putting such policy in place can only be seen as hostile to the working poor.
This is a demographic that votes in preponderance for Democrats historically, although some of that has been eroding the last 20 years. The Democratic Party was once the standard bearer for the poor in America: the citizens who vote who have been given support by Democratic politicians and institutions to continue voting in the goodies from government. Government is, however, now broke, by and large, due to the giveaways and wealth transfer from working rich to working and non-working poor. When nearly half of the population pays no income taxes (yes they do pay into SSA, but that is not investment, just a tax) and when half of all households get some form of government support (local, State, federal) then there is a class that is expected to show gratitude by voting for those giving them the handouts. Those handouts are not economically based and breaking apart the budget of not just the US, but all of Europe and other Nations that have embarked on this foolhardy scheme of over-taxing the rich to give goodies to the poor. Now the door of participation in the economy can be seen only as being undermined by protecting illegal aliens and the working poor American Citizen is being told that they will be forever in the working poor to non-working poor by government fiat of unconstitutional policy. You aren't just being told the game is rigged against you, those doing that telling are now doing the rigging right before your very eyes and they want to shut the door on the pathway towards the middle class and achievement... as the goodies system collapses and soon won't be there for you, your children or any other of your friends who are also part of the poor in America.
5) Black Americans – This demographic represents 10% of the electorate (give or take and it varies by State) and voted in the 90% range for President Obama. President Obama has done nothing to help out African-Americans in the US and is actively trying to hurt the working poor Black American Citizen who partake of being part of the working poor Citizenry. All of the problems seen for the working poor, in general, are double for the Black community which has had its once coherent neighborhoods broken up through 'Urban Renewal' (started by President Truman), and then put into government supplied housing (as part of the 'Great Society' under Johnson): all large scale policies meant to impoverish Black Americans, take them out of being home owners, and then break up the multi-generational culture by putting housing in place that barely catered to a two parent family. Putting in 'activists' and race baiters, and then adding in goodies through the CRA for home loans (after destroying the community based S&L system via 'securitization' ushered in by Nixon), the Black community has been pushed around, broken up and had its once vibrant culture eroded and corroded to the point where being young and black in America corresponds to being unemployed, single and often with a rap sheet added on.
At some point the African-American community will start to walk away from identity politics as it has now made the poor, poorer and the rich aren't even being brought down into the middle class, and yet the government coffers are running on red ink and soon won't be able to provide any support that was promised to the neediest by politicians. If the Democratically backed 'Jim Crow' laws of the South weren't just plain awful, then the plight of Black America would be seen as the true tragedy it really is. In many ways those who did the abusing of Black America under 'Jim Crow' then changed over to the goodie providing culture that did even worse than just killing you: it impoverished you, took your property under legal fiat, densified your population into government housing that would have made the USSR cringe, cut off pathways to excellence by degrading Public School performance by softening the rigor of education (this is the tragedy of lowered expectations), and now seeks to lock a large percentage of the Black Community into poverty by depriving yet another generation of opportunity by protecting another identity politics splinter: Hispanics. This is pitting the legal poor against the illegal alien, and raising tensions between Black and Hispanic communities.
All in one policy presentation.
This is the problem with 'identity politics': no one is just one thing. And when you promise new goodies and protections at the expense of other parts of the splinters that are at the root of 'identity politics', the end state is not a coherent group voting for you and, in fact, the likelihood of chaos increases no end as faction is set against faction on the most personal of scales possible: within families and communities. At that point government is seen as the causer of the problem, not the upholder of equality of application of the law. Chaos is what happens when you don't apply the law equally to all: it makes the system one of favors, not of process.
That is why we have a Constitution guaranteeing equal application of the law and protecting the rights of all Citizens.
When you announce you are no longer doing that, you are announcing that your will is above that of the elected representatives of the People.
That never ends well.