Thank Obama for All He's Done
By Bryan Caplan
While I still harbor doubts about implementation, Obama’s recent executive order on immigration exceeds my wildest hopes from two months ago. Yet to be honest, I’m having trouble feeling thankful. Not because I’m afraid he’s “undermined the rule of law.” Legal arguments aside, I strongly believe that unjust laws should not be enforced and broken whenever expedient. No, I’m having trouble feeling thankful about Obama’s executive action because:
1. Philosophically, I think Obama should be judged relative to what he was morally obliged to do, not relative to what presidents usually do. And he was and remains morally obliged to do far more. For starters, it is in his power to extend lifelong deferred action to every illegal immigrant, and pardon everyone in prison for immigration offenses.
2. I strongly oppose almost everything else Obama’s done, leading to a reverse-halo effect. On an emotional level, I dislike the man and what he stands for so intensely that I find it hard to give him credit where credit is due. Not that I consider Obama especially awful for a politician; every successful politician of every party makes my flesh crawl.
3. To avoid feeling miserable about politics all the time, I’ve cultivated a mentality of detachment from public affairs. I haven’t simply lowered my expectations; that would make me appreciate Obama’s actions all the more. Instead, I’ve inwardly given up. The downside: Good news tempts me to start caring, a prospect that fills me with dread given the daily travesty of politics.
Are any of these good reasons to not be thankful for what Obama’s done? Not really. Reason-by-reason self-criticism:
1. Yes, Obama ought to do much more, but millions of innocents have still received a major reprieve.
2. The reverse-halo effect is a cognitive bias that we must strive to resist.
3. Emotional detachment is no excuse for factual denial. Caring too much about what Obama does is hazardous for my peace of mind, but I still have to admit that he’s given genuine hope to millions of innocent people.
The upshot: Despite my odd personal issues, I wholeheartedly thank Obama for all he’s done for illegal immigrants. He should do much more. But most men in his position would have done nothing or worse than nothing. This Thanksgiving, millions are thankful that they may finally be allowed to legally work. Their entire families are thankful. And so am I.