Democrats for a Dictatorial Presidency

Members of Congress from both parties once jealously guarded its power against the executive branch, but under President Obama, this is no longer true for Democrats. There are very good reasons Democrats have ceded their power to President Obama and ignored their responsibility to uphold the Constitution the past 6 years -- and disgraced themselves in doing so. Because governmental bodies rarely give up power voluntarily, this historic transition deserves careful scrutiny.

When Barack Obama was on the cusp of becoming president in 2008, he gave a speech declaring to his supporters that they were days away from “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”  That was one promise he did keep. How has America been transformed? America has unprecedented levels of national debt. The Obamas, like the Clintons, will not feel the impact since they will all be vastly enriched from their “public service.” There have also been records set for food stamp and disability payments, record low workplace participation rates and unparalleled weakness abroad. Granted, the stock market is hitting record highs -- a consequence of abnormally low interest rates and the extraordinary use of quantitative easing.  Obama’s War on the One Percent has failed. But Barack Obama has done far more and the consequences will be felt for many years to come. He has transformed the presidency.

Obama has seized power in ways that Michael Barone has aptly characterized as “Gangsta Government.”  Barone was inspired to write his first column on that topic by Obama’s unilateral denying of creditor rights in the Chrysler bankruptcy. But it became a series for Barone, and Obama’s future actions provided the gist for David  Freddoso’s superb book, Gangster Government: Barack Obama and the New Washington Thugocracy.  Obamacare was jammed through Congress via “reconciliation” a rarely used procedure meant to deal with minor budget issues --  not taking over one-sixth of the American economy.  

More arrogation of power followed. Obama made recess appointments when he alone declared Congress was in recess, and tried to load up government positions with like-minded ideologues without bothering to abide by the Constitutional mandate that the Senate had to approve these appointments. The Supreme Court eventually rebuked him for exceeding his constitutional authority.  He has used his regulatory agencies to transfigure the laws as passed by even a Democratic Congress when those laws might cause him political problems (Obamacare waivers and delays, for instance; the IRS interpreting Obamacare legislation to require subsidies flow to people in states that failed to set up their own exchanges, though the legislation did not provide for that practice). Clearly, Barack Obama never had much respect for the second branch of the government.

But Obama does not show much respect for the Judiciary branch of the government either, as shown by his display of contempt towards the Supreme Court at various times, including a shocking display during his 2010 State of The Union Address when he (wrongly) accused them of making a decision that would allow foreign funding of political campaigns.  He also declared that the Supreme Court should rule that Obamacare was constitutional:

"Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,"

Not only was this statement wholly inappropriate for a president to make it was factually wrong (maybe he should have been tested on the Constitution before being hired to be a part-time lecturer on it at the University of Chicago).

But he has no respect for the separation of powers; nor does he feel any obligation to abide by the Constitution. "By hook or by crook," he will expand the government.

Others have called Obama’s egregious actions akin to that of the leader of a Banana Republic.  A few months ago, Charles Krauthammer said that Obama’s granting of de facto amnesty (and all the taxpayer-funded benefits that flow from that act) was comparable to that of a caudillo of a banana republic who rules by decree. But one does not have to rely on critics alone. Barack Obama’s own boasts show he is proud to have found ways to ignore Congress and the American people. When the House fell to the Republicans in 2012, he was not to be outdone:

I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions…

What followed was a veritable  ”barrage” of “pen and phone” actions, in the words of the non-partisan The Hill.  Tim Devaney writes:

Obama in January (2014)  declared his intent to use executive power to enact policy changes without Congress, and he has lived up to his promise, making aggressive moves on climate change, immigration, land protections and the minimum wage.

Obama knew he would have to rely on executive action given Republican control of Congress, and he has raced through 2014 to get as much done as possible.

The pace has only picked up since the midterm elections, with big announcements on immigration, climate change and foreign policy with Cuba.

“He’s pushing every executive power to the limit,” said Robert Cresanti, executive vice president of government relations at the International Franchise Association.

He has actually pushed it beyond its limits.

One of the most dramatic actions he took was his granting of de facto amnesty -- after the 2014 midterm elections. Devaney continues:

Obama after the midterm elections issued an order protecting about 4.5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.

Obama directed federal agencies not to deport the parents of immigrants who are living legally in the U.S. He also expanded the scope of young immigrants who qualify for such protections. 

The move enraged Republicans, who accused the president of going around Congress to act alone on immigration. 

And Republicans have promised to take action to curb the orders. But it’s unclear whether there’s much they can do. Even a government shutdown would leave most federal employees involved with processing the new immigrant cases at their desks.

His flouting of the laws has accelerated. He hast taken advantage of loopholes, stretched the meaning and abused the concept of “prosecutorial discretion” to grant illegal immigrants “rights and privileges,” used his regulatory authority to circumvent Congress (and punish his political enemies via the IRS), and relied on the legal concept of standing (wherein aggrieved parties seeking legal redress need to demonstrate his actions have actually harmed them) to shield him from judicial action that might curb his trampling of the Constitution.

How have his fellow Democrats responded to his aggrandizement of presidential power? His shocking and unprecedented attack of the Supreme Court Justices during his 2010 State of The Union led to them giving him a standing ovation and rapturous applause. That was symbolic of how they have responded over the past 6 years.

A friend suggested that a Republican president would be able to now exercise power in the same overreaching way. There is a salient and crucial difference, Democrats cheer Big Brother, they want a bigger and more expansive federal government that ignores the concepts of federalism and rights of individuals as opposed to the collective. Republicans want a smaller federal government that frees people from the Leviathan. If a Republican President tried to exercise power as Barack Obama has, a Tea Party revolt would make the one in 2010 look like a tempest in (can’t help myself) a tea pot.

They have helped him stonewall all efforts by Republicans to exercise their responsibilities as the legislative branch of the government. Congressman Darrell Issa had been on a multi-year crusade since becoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (when Republicans won the House) to ferret out the truth behind Obama’s abuse of the Oval Office. The Democrats took the extraordinary step of appointing Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings to be the Committee’s Ranking Member, bypassing Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney who would have been expected to assume that role. Political pros realized what had happened.  There was a belief that Cummings would be far more effective in blocking Issa's investigations into the Obama White House than Maloney would.  Cummings has been running interference for Barack Obama ever since. Former Republican Senator Howard Baker recently passed away. He has been lionized for his role during the Watergate scandal in exposing Richard Nixon’s misdeeds -- exposures that led, with the help of not just Democrats but fellow Republicans, to Richard Nixon’s leaving office. Elijah Cummings is no Howard Baker; there are no Howard Bakers in the Democratic Party now.

Empowering Obama, cheering him on as he grabs more power, has been the automatic response by all Democrats during Obama’s six years in power.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid aided and abetted Barack Obama by the nuclear option of doing away with the filibuster so Obama could appoint left-wing judges to federal benches across the nation, for example.

This derogation of their duties, this abandonment of their responsibilities, this ceding of power to the president has been a disgrace. After all, who willingly cedes power?

But there is a rationale behind this strategy to support the abuse of the office of the presidency; to herald the circumvention of Congress and the will of so many Americans. They feel they have a lock on the presidency that may be perpetual and unbreakable.

Republicans have a geographical advantage when it comes to keeping the House (see “Why Democrats Can’t Win the House”). This can offer some, but limited checks against a President who has no compunction against seizing and exploiting power. So how to overcome any obstruction offered by conscientious members of Congress? Empower a president that will likely be a Democrat for many decades to come -- if not forever.

Chris Cillizza  is just one of the most recent of political pundits who have commented on the electoral edge that Democrats have in winning the presidency:

No matter whom Republicans nominate to face Hillary Rodham Clinton in November 2016, that candidate will start at a disadvantage. It’s not polling, Clinton’s deep résumé or the improving state of the economy. It’s the electoral college.

Yes, the somewhat arcane — yet remarkably durable — way in which presidential elections are decided tilts toward Democrats in 2016, as documented by nonpartisan political handicapper Nathan Gonzales in a recent edition of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.

Gonzales notes that if you add up all of the states that are either “safe” for the eventual Democratic nominee or “favor” that nominee, you get 217 electoral votes. (A candidate needs to win 270 to be elected president.) Do the same for states safe or favoring the Republican standard-bearer, per Gonzales’s rankings, and you get just 191 electoral votes.

That Democratic advantage becomes even more pronounced if you add to the party’s total the states that “lean” Democratic, according to Gonzales. Put Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Iowa (6) and Nevada (6) into the Democratic column and the party’s electoral vote count surges to 249 — just 21 votes short of winning a third straight presidential race. (Gonzales doesn’t rate any states as “lean Republican.”)

Such a scenario is decidedly realistic given that President Obama not only won all three of those “lean” Democratic states in 2008 and 2012 but that he did so by an average of eight points in Iowa and nine points in Nevada. And, the last Republican presidential nominee to carry Pennsylvania was George H.W. Bush, way back in 1988.

Gonzales’s analysis, which some will dismiss as premature but I applaud (it’s never too early!), reaffirms one of the most important — and undercovered — story lines in presidential politics in the past decade: the increasing Democratic dominance in the electoral college.

A Democratic only has to win 270 electoral votes to become president. There is the famous “blue wall” of 18 states and Washington, D.C. that have reliably voted Democrat in presidential elections going back 6 years that total 240 votes. Michael Barone thinks that this blue wall is not impregnable for Republicans, but it will be very challenging, especially since Democrats have opened the borders, engaged in massive voter registration drives, have not given up in efforts to grant felons the right to vote, and now President Obama pushes to make voting mandatory; red states are turning increasingly purple and become blue in presidential races.

So as promised, there are 270 reasons Democrats have aided and abetted and become accomplices to Barack Obama’s increasingly dictatorial view of the presidency. But 270 can be reduced to one reason: Democrats are optimistic they will have a hold on the presidency for many years to come and will now have the power to impose their agenda on America. Barack Obama has showed them the way and future Democrats will follow in his wake.

Image by Otto Veblin