Schoolhouse Rock! has been a part of growing up for generations of American kids. Whether they’re learning grammar from a train engineer or about politics from an anthropomorphic wad of paper, Schoolhouse has managed to use catchy musical numbers to weasel knowledge into kids’ brains, Inception-style.
Saturday Night Live harnessed that power this weekend through a parody of the “I’m Just a Bill” number, using it to explain the President’s executive action on immigration and the debate surrounding it.
The skit was well executed and quite funny, and it mirrored a lot of the sentiment that’s been percolating in reaction to the President’s decision. On many of the finer points of this issue, though, SNL was wide of the mark.
To begin with, it mistakes how the issue has progressed legislatively in the run-up to the President’s decision. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill with 68 votes in the summer of 2013, which the Republican-controlled House refused to vote on – it did not go from the House to the Senate, and legislation does not necessarily need to progress in that order.
Similarly, the skit implies that an immigration bill got to the President’s desk and he pushed it down the stairs, or vetoed it. In fact, because the House never voted, he never got the chance to sign or veto anything.
The skit also implies that executive orders are a new aspect of governance. In fact, every President except for William Henry Harrison has issued executive orders, and he died a month into his first term. Granted, most are far more mundane than this, setting aside land for national parks or declaring holidays, but both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush used them to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Finally, the skit declares that the results of the midterm elections indicated the American people were against immigration reform. A Washington Post exit poll found that 57% of voters nationwide thought immigrants should be offered legal status, while 39% thought they should be deported.
There’s plenty of room for debate about whether this initiative is within the President’s power as an executive, but many of SNL’s criticisms are misleading.
H/T Think Progress