President Obama offered a deeply chilling vision for the rest of his time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last week with his State of the Union.
This vision does not stem from his unrealistic, though not necessarily unreasonable, requests of the 113th and 114th Congresses in terms of policy. Nor, I’m afraid, does it spring forth from the lack of vision in the parts of his speech which seemed to be copied and pasted from his prior States of the Union. I would be comforted should this vision come from one or even both of those places, but the actual source is much more unnerving.
In a way, it comes from the lack of compromise between Congress and the president. Most people in the public today at least put up a facade of desiring compromise, but it should be clear to anyone by this point that not much will change on that front thanks to the overwhelming odds that the majority in the House of Representatives will be kept by the Republican Party.
Unfortunately for my faith in government, even this lack of compromise isn’t where we find the headwaters of my premonition.
Instead, the source of my feeling is best summed up by one sentence early in last Tuesday evening’s State of the Union: “…wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Let that sink in. This president has thus far told officials to ignore federal law, made changes which in the past nearly two and a half centuries of American history would have been made only by Congress, abused recess appointments and promised more implementations of policy which go against the will of the American people as expressed through our House of Representatives. Regardless of your political affiliation, this should set a deeply unsettling precedent.
While there are plenty of them, I have space to dispatch only one argument in favor of President Obama’s addiction to executive orders. Most people in this camp will gleefully remind us that Obama has signed fewer executive orders to date than any recent president. That much is irrefutable. What any informed American need remember though is that much like any other topic, the quantity of executive orders must be multiplied by the potency of these orders to get the whole picture. Based on the magnitude of previous orders alone it is clear that this President has done one thing we would all like government to do: more with less.
I leave you with a pertinent quotation from James Madison’s Federalist #51: “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” This president’s use of executive fiat to bypass the representative assemblies which we the people have put in place tosses the most important structural facet of our Constitution, the deeply-imbedded checks and balances, out the window. America has another three years, but in the meantime can we at least fine him for littering?