“… only the executive has frequent opportunity to carry on an unconstitutional initiative until it produces a concrete result that can be challenged only after the fact. An individual might, for example, be unconstitutionally arrested, tortured and killed under the auspices of executive authority long before either of the other branches even hear about the action, much less have any chance to intervene. The first safeguard against such abuse is the character of the one vested with executive power. But if that person has the disposition to move beyond the law until met with hard resistance (to probe with bayonets, as Lenin put it), great and perhaps fatal harm could be done before such resistance sufficed to stop him.
“There will be a special danger in this regard if the executive in question has enough support in the Congress to make him confident that his abuses will not be challenged, or that challenges will never have sufficient support to remove him from office. Can we say with any confidence that we are not in this situation of special peril to liberty?” (From my blog post “Design for Despotism”)
Last week I published a blog post about the report that Michele Bachmann and her colleagues may go to court over Obama’s unconstitutional abuse of executive orders. In response, one of my Facebook friends asked me why we haven’t seen this kind of abuse from previous occupants of the Oval Office. Obama’s arrogant flaunting of his dictatorial abuses is something new. But the possibility of such abuse is inherent in the nature of Executive power.
That’s one reason for the U.S. Constitution’s much vaunted “system of checks and balances.” But that system only operates effectively through the energetic initiative or effective resistance of the different branches of government. The Executive has the advantage when it comes to energetic initiatives, or “active resolutions” as Alexander Hamilton put it. The judiciary makes decisions, but has no enforcement power. The legislature formulates and adopts laws, but the Constitution leaves actual implementation/enforcement of the laws to the Executive, i.e., the president of the United States.
If the Executive fails to carry out laws made by Congress (like the DOMA for instance), or takes actions not authorized by law (as Obama has with immigration and Obamacare), the legislature has two ways of compelling him to act, or to cease from unlawful action:
- the power of the purse – cutting off money to the Executive branch; and
- The impeachment/removal power – removing the vice president and the president, so that the succession provided for by law brings someone to office who will enforce the laws and respect the Constitution.
Absent active congressional discipline, Executive power always inclines toward dictatorship. Vaulting ambition aside, the pressure of events may feed this tendency even when nothing else does. We’ve had activist presidents before – Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, to name a few. But only in the last generation or so has Congress consistently failed to use its constitutional power to curtail and rebuke unconstitutional Executive actions.
The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to be vigilant against this inherently dangerous government power. That’s one reason why I focus so much on the failure of the GOP. When they had control of the U.S. Congress and the White House prior to 2006, the GOP leaders didn’t use their position to implement policies that curtailed the excessive power of the U.S. government. They also did nothing to return control of their own resources to the people at large, in their private capacities.
Even more culpably, since control of the U.S. House was restored to them by grass-roots voters in 2010, the GOP’s quisling leaders have collaborated with Obama’s radical socialist schemes, giving him mainly ineffectual, lip-service opposition. Thanks to this GOP collaboration, Obama has behaved in a more and more openly dictatorial fashion. Like other would-be dictators, at first he abuses power cautiously. When he is not called to account, his impunity leads others to fear him. Their fear encourages him to escalate his abuses. As those greater abuses also go unanswered, fear commences to predominate, until at last few if any are left courageous enough to stand against him.
Was Obama’s move against Dinesh D’Souza a kind of Rubicon, across which we must expect new and higher benchmarks of tyranny? However that may be, thanks to the quisling temperament of the GOP leadership, only a determined push from the grass roots will re-energize Congress’ constitutional power to thwart dictatorship. America needs a Congress willing and able to call Obama to account by way of the Constitution’s impeachment/removal provisions. Without that impetus, the political class will fall-in behind his bid to free the U.S. government’s power from all semblance of prior constraint (too many of them quite eagerly).
The political change needed to get this result must either overthrow the quisling leadership of the GOP, or else forge the basis for a national grass-roots voter mobilization poised to replace the now shiftless Republican Party. If things just go on as they are, liberty will fail for lack of a party of liberty willing to battle against the elitist faction’s budding tyrants.
I saw an article the other day entitled “Is it time for impeachment?” I hope as people consider the answer, they realize that it’s not just a matter of time. It’s also a matter of timing. Like the question of war, the question of impeachment is not about the moment of action so much as its strategic imperative. By openly vaunting his determination to act in defiance of constitutional constraint, Obama may actually have decided that strategic question already.
For once your enemy commences to invade, the question of war is really about whether and how you will resist him. If you intend to resist, then from the moment his intention is clear everything you do has to be geared toward doing so successfully. Under the Constitution of the United States, the chief line of resistance against tyranny lies in the Congress of the United States. As of now, that line remains unformed.
To remedy this deficiency requires an appeal to the people. The upcoming general election offers the chance to make such an appeal, in order to elect a Congress capable of driving back the elitists bent on liberty’s demise. If people demand an impeachment/removal Congress; if they back up that demand with their votes; 2015 will bring on a Congress differently composed. Reformed by the presence of constitutional majorities pledged to impeach/remove Obama and his collaborators, Congress will have what it takes to defeat Obama’s offensive maneuvers against America’s constitutional liberty.
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