President Obama’s speech on immigration reform in El Paso was high on patriotism and politics, but low on practical means to achieve immigration reform. His story about attending a graduation ceremony in Florida in which 181 different flags were paraded to honor graduates from as many countries ended fittingly when he noted that the American flag drew the loudest, most sustained applause.
Obama has always been at his best when talking about what unites us a people and a nation—and he invoked once again the notion of e pluribus unum. He even gave a nod to GOP efforts on immigration reform, citing former Sen. Mel Martinez, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, even News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Nonetheless, the speech failed to offer anything new that might give any hope that reform legislation might stand a chance of passing. He can blame politics all he wants for reform’s failure, but this speech was nothing more than politics. He spoke before a largely Hispanic audience in one of the most Hispanic cities in America—El Paso (which, as he observed, also happens to be one of the safest big cities in the U.S. despite being only a few miles from one of the most dangerous places in the hemisphere).
But Jonathan is right, Hispanics are less than enthusiastic about his accomplishments on immigration reform to date. As I’ve written elsewhere, the Democrats face a real problem in the next election: Hispanic voter apathy—and speeches, even inspiring ones, won’t change that.