The presidency of Barack Obama came to an end on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, with the counting of the votes in New York's special election to replace disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, who had resigned as the result of a cyber-sex scandal. In a heavily Democratic district in Brooklyn and Queens which had not elected a Republican since the 1920's, a radical right wing Tea Party Republican, Bob Turner, who has been accused of wanting to end Social Security and Medicare, resoundingly defeated Democrat David Weprin.
True, as always, there were some special, local reasons for the result. In a district which is 40 per cent Jewish, Obama was under attack for not towing the line on Israel, an issue on which he has shown some of the kind of courage that he has lamentably failed to show on immigration. The fact that Weprin himself is Jewish was not enough to help him. According to some pundits, Weprin may also have antagonized Orthodox Jewish voters, of whom there are many in that district, by voting for gay marriage as a New York Assemblyman. He was also said to be a weak campaigner. Is any loser in an election ever praised for being a strong campaigner?
One does not have to be a radical Republican/Tea Party supporter in order to understand that the Democratic defeat was due to Obama's 37 per cent approval rating in the district. According to all reports, there was a widespread perception that Obama was out of touch with the economic anxieties of ordinary people, that he does not feel their pain in this time of alarmingly high unemployment and poverty in what is supposed to be the richest nation on earth.
The chickens of the terrible advice that Obama has been following from the start, namely that the expediency of catering to right wing corporate interests in order to attract "centrist" and "independent" votes takes precedence over principle, are coming home to roost. What goes around comes around. Causes have effects. Ordinary middle class voters, who predominate in the district that the Democrats just lost, feel that the president does not care about them, that they have been thrown under the bus.
There is another group of voters who have also been thrown under the bus by this administration - Latinos and members of other immigrant communities. True, the voters in yesterday's New York election were mainly middle class whites - exactly the voters who are likely to be tough on immigration and whom Obama has been trying to pander to for the past three years with his record number of deportations of brown-skinned people and his policy of "No" toward skilled immigrants from Asia and elsewhere. A lot of good it has done him.
Now, far too late, even Obama must realize that he has no hope of winning re-election without the support of voters in the same Latino and other minority communities whom he has been doing everything possible to antagonize ever since he took office as president. But, absent collective amnesia on their part, or a radical change in immigration policy, including an immediate moratorium on deportation of all people who are not violent criminals or terrorists (and a moratorium on RFE's for professional empoyment-based petitions) Obama has no hope of winning these voters back.
Obama has had his chance to be a president who stood for principle, who would do more than just talk about the needs of ordinary people and the disadvantaged, including immigrants, but would actually take action to help them. Instead, just as he has been on the side of the wealthy few in economic policy, he has been on the side of the bigots with respect to immigration. The Democrats need someone else to carry their banner next year. President Obama is now President Nobama.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.