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Death by a 140 Characters

A few weeks ago I was talking with a young man who is a frequent voter.  We often talk about political and social issues, but routinely disagree on how most matters should be addressed.  During this last conversation, in order to make a point, I mentioned the danger of an 18 trillion dollar national debt that is still increasing.  His response was, “The national debt is a figment.  It is not a problem.”  I almost broke down in tears because this is the kind of destructive thinking that is too prevalent among American voters.  They think this way and vote accordingly.

My struggle has been to understand how an individual can think in this fashion.  A thoughtful thirty-one year old lady explained it to me in a single statement.  She said, “Many people operate in the 140 character limit of Twitter.”  That is, they see a headline, maybe read a few words beyond it, and conclude they have all the information needed for reaching an accurate conclusion.  Because so many voters follow this pattern and politicians exploit it, I contend we are a nation experiencing “Death by a 140 Characters.”

What is happening in Congress this week is a prime example of how this “Death by a 140 Characters” process plays out.  For several years President Obama has been pressing for legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to stay in America.  He and Congress have not been able to agree on legislation to address this matter.  The primary roadblock to progress has been that many Republicans argue that the first step in immigration reform should be to “Secure Our Borders.”  Given that the president has not been willing to take this first step, no legislative progress has been made.  Yes, I know there are those who contend that the borders are more secure than ever.

When after some time Congressional Republicans refused to pass immigration reform acceptable to him, Obama issued executive orders in November 2014 to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the USA.  The Republican-controlled House of Representatives reacted by passing legislation that would, except for dollars needed to carryout actions under the president’s immigration executive orders, fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through 30 September 2015.  That legislation has not been acted on in the Senate because Democrats filibustered and prevented consideration or a vote.

If DHS funding is not approved by midnight on 27 February, the department will shut down except for essential personnel who would not be paid until funding is authorized.  In the face of this prospect, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican) has proposed legislation that would fully fund DHS.  A separate bill would be considered that will stop implementation of President Obama’s immigration executive orders.  The first bill would pass the Senate with support from Democrats.  I think there is no guarantee that the second would pass and it would be on the House to reject the funding legislation.

In my estimation, McConnell and most Senate Republicans are caving again in the face of unreasonable and even unconstitutional actions by President Obama.  When there are very legitimate reasons for stopping the president’s immigration executive orders by refusing funding, why are Republicans caving?  The answer is the “140 Characters” strategy.  There is no way for Republicans to make their opposition case in a few words.  On the other hand, Democrats are geniuses at working the “140 Characters” voter manipulation technique.  Here is how they do it.  Every day for the past week or so I have received emails like the ones below from some Democratic entity.  They are paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Note that these emails provide no details regarding the DHS funding situation…make no reference to reasons for Republican objections or to Democrats’ filibuster of the funding bill.  They simply play to those who act on very little information:


Friend: This isn’t good.

The GOP is taking us closer and closer to a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security — and they’re trying to blame it on PRESIDENT OBAMA!!

That isn’t OK. The truth is pretty clear cut. They shut down the government in 2013 and now, Speaker Boehner is catering to the Tea Party and refusing to keep the Department of Homeland Security open.


Here’s how Boehner feels about his imminent shutdown:


Boehner just doesn’t care that his petty politics will cause the SECOND government shutdown in two years.

That’s EXACTLY what’s wrong with these obstructionist Republicans.

But here’s the good news: over 7,000 of you have stepped up to stop Boehner from shutting down Homeland Security.

We’re SO close to our 10,000 donation goal — but we can only count donations before tomorrow at midnight. _____________________________________________________________

In the face of this shutdown bashing by Democrats, too many Congressional Republicans are afraid to take a stand even though the facts are on their side.  Republicans are so afraid of being blamed for another shutdown and, thereby, possibly losing elections they are unable to lead in this demanding situation.  Leading requires that there is no fear of failing.

Against that backdrop, here are some solid considerations that support Republican opposition to President Obama’s immigration executive orders:

  1. The president’s actions likely constitute a change in law by him.  Article 1, Section 1 of the United States Constitutions says, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which herein shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”  A post by Gardner Selby on politifact.com reports that during an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News on 17 February 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “22 times Barack Obama said he did not have the authority to implement this type of anti-deportation measure. And then the day after he signed this into law, he said, quote, ‘I just changed the law.’”  Selby writes that the “22” should be “15” and that on various occasions and after saying he had changed the law, Obama went on to talk about “reprioritizing enforcement” as related to what he could do and had done.  Selby says that with these clarifications, Abbott’s statement is correct.


  1. These points from http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/immigration/item/19674-obama-immigration-plan-would-give-cash-benefits-to-illegals
  2. “The cost of amnesty, according to the Heritage Foundation, will be approximately $2 trillion over the next 50 years, partly because the average illegal immigrant who benefits from amnesty has only a 10th grade education.”
  3. “According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the amnesty process will be plagued by fraud. One official explained that it will be a ‘major problem for the new amnesty — though just how big is anyone’s guess, because the administration has turned a blind eye to those warnings.’”
  4. Talking about applications under the president’s executive orders, “And once those applications are approved, the immigrants will then be entitled to Social Security and Medicare. The AP writes, ‘Describing the administration’s position, one official said … that any immigrant considered lawfully present and holding a Social Security number would be entitled to Social Security and Medicare upon retirement because they would have paid into the system.’”


  1. From http://dailycaller.com/2015/02/13/i-know-nothing-hispanic-caucus-member-didnt-know-that-illegals-will-receive-tax-refunds/:
  2. “IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told members of Congress Wednesday that illegal immigrants who did not pay taxes will be able to claim back-refunds once they are issued social security numbers.”
  3. “When asked whether the tax credit program was only eligible to illegal immigrants who have previously filed tax returns, Koskinen conceded that those who haven’t filed before could still be eligible for back-credits.”
  4. The references above are to the Earned Income Tax Credit.


  1. The quote below is from an article at vox.com titled “A federal judge put the brakes on Obama’s immigration action.”  This refers to a lawsuit brought by 26 states to halt implementation of Obama’s executive actions on immigration:


“The states are arguing that they have to “bear the burden” of unauthorized migration by paying for public schooling for unauthorized immigrant children; including US citizen children whose parents are unauthorized in safety-net programs; and especially, by having to provide “uncompensated” emergency care to unauthorized immigrants who don’t have health insurance, since they’re barred from participating in the exchanges under Obamacare and don’t have low-cost insurance options. Furthermore, they claim, Obama’s executive actions will encourage more unauthorized immigrants to come to the US, which will burden the states even more.”

This listing could be continued substantially.  The point is Republicans in Congress have overwhelming justification for refusing to fund President Obama’s immigration executive orders.  I hope they will take a stand…choose to show themselves as leaders.  In spite of my hoping, my expectation is that they will yield to the “140 characters mentality” and to the fear of losing.  “Same old thing.”

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