By Mark Cromer
November 20, 2008
As a beaming President-elect Barack Obama gazed out at the sea of Americans that had gathered on election night in Chicago’s Grant Park to revel in his meteoric ascendance to the White House, the emotionally-charged triumph was awe inspiring.
Yet I couldn’t help flashing back to another emotional sea of humanity – the one that three years earlier surged through New Orleans seeking shelter and salvation from Hurricane Katrina.
Despite the striking contrasts of hope and anguish, the promise displayed in Grant Park on election night versus the tragedy that unfolded in the Super Dome and all along the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, both flowed from a common well that now runs deep in America: the belief that the government can – and will – protect us.
Protect us from natural disasters, protect us from foreign terrorists and enemy states, protect us from a collapsing economy, protect us from street hoodlums, protect us from a dying environment and, ultimately, protect us from ourselves through legislation designed to blunt our lack of self-restraint and disinterest in self-reliance.
Indeed, in the passionate and emotional faces evident throughout the massive crowd that gathered to hear Mr. Obama’s victory speech, there could be seen the reflection of the desperate faces that peered from the roof tops in New Orleans; of the stranded men and women holding up bed sheets with the word ‘Help!’ scrawled across them.
For all the soaring rhetoric that has greeted Mr. Obama’s election and its historic implications for our nation, the underlying message from the majority of the American electorate is as inescapable as those bed sheets held skyward on the rooftops of a flooded New Orleans.
I hate to be a buzz kill this early at the party, but the bad news is that our young president is going to find himself stuck between a country that expects increasingly more from its government and a government that has a rapidly diminishing ability to deliver on those demands.
And that cold equation is going to loom large in the opening weeks of Mr. Obama’s administration, as immigration again becomes an active policy issue, one that has the volatile potency to derail his domestic agenda in areas such as healthcare and education.
With his transition underway he is already under immense pressure from Latino groups to immediately suspend upon taking office the most successful efforts to enforce immigration law at the border and in the workplace, an action that would be seen as a metaphorical green light south of the border and trigger fresh waves of immigrants seeking to make landfall in front of an anticipated amnesty.
Open-border activist groups will also move quickly to cash in their political chits with the new administration by demanding it move swiftly with Congress in passing a massive amnesty for illegal immigrants already here, an act that will dramatically increase the immediate pressure on government services by exploding the population of people who have legal access to them.
That strain on services and resources will only increase if Mr. Obama carries out his pledge to "reunite families" through immigration reform, which more plainly stated means that illegal immigrants will be able to bring their families into the United States following an amnesty.
Mr. Obama has also stated his support for increasing the number of visas that bring legal immigrants into the country, ostensibly to meet the skilled labor demands of industries that can’t seem to locate American workers in the growing unemployment lines.
In real world terms, if Mr. Obama decides to remake immigration policy according to current Democratic orthodoxy, millions more people may soon be competing for jobs and swamping taxpayer-funded services.
During the campaign, Mr. Obama was able to convince a majority of the American electorate that he was more of the pragmatist they needed than a liberal ideologue they should fear. By next summer, the American people will have a good indication whether that is true or not.
The collapse of the housing and financial markets and the precipitous erosion of skilled labor jobs have thus far defied belated efforts by Washington at a rescue; hundreds of billions of dollars injected into staggering industries looks increasingly like shoveling cash into a blast furnace.
During his acceptance speech in Denver this summer, Mr. Obama observed to another epic crowd feverish with hope that the so-called "ownership society" proffered by the Bush administration had cynically come to mean "You’re on your own." But the stark fact that Americans will face in the months and years ahead is that we are, indeed, pretty much on our own – as terrifying as that reality is for many. Our government simply cannot be relied upon – as was demonstrated in the floodwaters of Katrina – to save us from the torrent of problems we now confront.
In earthquake prone California it was recently reported that only 10 percent of the population was adequately prepared for a big temblor. The other 90 percent will be waiting for the government to deliver them from disaster – and they will be competing for that rescue with more than four million illegal immigrants throughout the state.
Those numbers are growing, not shrinking.
So perhaps the best that we can hope for at this stage is that Mr. Obama will act prudently and limit the damage currently unfolding by not further opening the floodgates into the United States in this moment of duress and sink what little remains of the American people’s dream.
Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow at Californians for Population Stabilization.