Julian Zelizer: Can Obama Split the GOP?





Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of the new book "Governing America."

(CNN) -- When President Obama had his back to the wall after a month of bad economic news, he tried to change the national conversation by shifting attention toward the issue of immigration. Through a directive issued by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to stop deporting some young undocumented immigrants, the administration made one of its boldest moves in four years in this area of policy.

In doing so, President Obama is clearly hoping to exploit the deep division that has existed within the GOP for decades on immigration reform.

One faction of the party, with strong support from the business community, has pushed for Congress to liberalize immigration policy on the basis that this will bring great economic benefit as well as positive electoral rewards for the party in states such as Texas.

The other faction, less hospitable to reform, has a strong nativist tilt and seeks much more stringent laws to crack down on illegal immigration and even curb the flow of legal newcomers....



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