President Barack Obama announces executive actions on U.S. immigration policy during a nationally televised address from the White House, Nov. 20, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Jim Bourg/Pool/Getty

Immigration outrage remains quite limited

It’s been about a week since Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told USA Today that Americans were poised to “go nuts” in opposition to President Obama’s immigration policy.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama’s executive order on immigration Thursday.
“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see – hopefully not – but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”
Americans certainly saw violence in Ferguson, Missouri, but the prediction that the country is “going to go nuts” in response to presidential overreach doesn’t seem to be holding up especially well.
Gallup’s daily tracking poll, for example, shows Obama’s approval rating at 44% – which is up a little, not down, since the immigration announcement. In fact, at this point, Obama is nearly as popular as Ronald Reagan was at identical points in their presidencies. A CNN poll also shows Obama at 44% approval.
And speaking of the CNN poll, the survey posed an interesting question to respondents: “A major part of Obama’s new policy changes will allow some immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to stay here temporarily and apply for a work permit if they have children who are U.S. citizens. Other immigrants in the U.S. illegally will not be eligible for this program and can still be deported. Do you think that plan goes too far, does not go far enough, or is about right?”
The responses probably weren’t what Republicans were hoping for:
* Too far 26%
* Not far enough 22%
* About right 50%
In this sense, a whopping 72% of the public either supports the president’s policy or wishes it was even more ambitious.
The broader point is not to pick on Coburn for a faulty prediction. Rather, what I suspect happens is that congressional Republicans spent a lot of time talking to other congressional Republicans and getting their news from outlets that tell the GOP what it wants to hear. Soon, folks inside the bubble become convinced that everyone sees the world as they do. The backlash against Obama, they assume, will be swift and severe.
After all, “everyone knows” the president is going too far, right?
Actually, no. The president’s policy, while important, was hardly revolutionary. His executive actions relied on established precedent and existing law to pick up the slack after Congress failed once again to do its job.
The country didn’t “go nuts” because there was no reason for a mass freak-out.