The key to resolving the crisis at the border is right before our eyes, wearing a peeved expression and a tricorn hat. Yes, if President Barack Obama wants help in turning back the wave of Central American children seeking sanctuary in the U.S., he will have to enlist the Tea Party.
This is not ordinarily a helpful response to vexing national policy challenges. Usually, the mature cynicism of the executive branch and Republican Party leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner is preferable to the boisterous anarchy of the Tea Party's back bench. But the situation in the Rio Grande Valley, with migrant children (and some of their mothers) appealing daily for rescue, requires a different approach.
This time, perhaps for the first time, the political incentives of the president and the Tea Party are aligned. Obama needs to stop the flow of children -- now. The border crisis undermines the Democrats' already shaky outlook for midterm elections, only months away, and constrains the president's ability to ease enforcement against millions of immigrants already in the country. Obama needs a quiet border before he can take any action.
Left to their own devices, neither Boehner nor McConnell is probably much inclined to help. Their only dilemma is over whether to delight more in the prospect of political damage to Democratic candidates this fall or in the harm to Obama himself. Watching the president struggle with a crisis -- especially one for which he bears most of the blame -- makes excellent political sport.
Tea Party adherents, on the other hand, are sincerely alarmed at the changing racial and cultural composition of the country. This has tempted some, including Texas Governor Rick Perry, to wade into conspiracy theories suggesting Obama somehow generated the crisis on purpose. Tea Partyers, too, want to stop the flow of children -- now.
Therein lies the foundation of an alliance. Republican leaders have repeatedly deferred to the desires of the Tea Party. Now, Obama needs the Tea Party's support to pass emergency legislation for the border. This is one conspiracy that both the president and his fiercest critics can get behind.
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