I am in a bit of a thought funk zone right now…I was listening to radio host Dana Loesch the other day talk about how disconnected she felt with the political process right now and realized that I feel exactly the same way. This isn’t so much a feeling of loss – as a classical liberal in a world of moderates and progressives, I’m used to losing. I have not had a single first-choice candidate win in the GOP primaries since Ronald Reagan won in 1980 but I have gone on to support Bush I and Dole against Clinton, Bush II against ManBearPig and the French looking John Freakin’ Kerry and supported Johnnie Mac and Mittens against Obama. I supported Ted Cruz in the primaries – I lost again – so my streak continues, but this time something is different. This time it feels like sort of an out-of-body experience where I seem to be floating over the scene of the GOP campaign bus wreck, watching the crowd watch the EMTs try to bring my lifeless body back to the light.
2016 is strangely unique for a number of reasons – both the presumptive nominees have hit record highs in disapproval ratings, making the general election one of who the people detest the least. As the media plays up a “civil war” on the GOP side, the modern equivalent of the Battle of Gettysburg is raging on the Democrat side. Since I absolutely loath Hillary Clinton and all that she stands for, I am taking perverse pleasure in watching the the Bitter Queen try to triangulate her positions with Comrade Bern pulling the party to the Leninist side. I know that for 2016, #feelthebern is a carnival sideshow because the Democrat intelligentsia knows that while a certain percentage of America will indulge in the guilty pleasure of thinking about a socialist Utopia, it won’t elect a died in the wool socialist to the presidency…at least not now but it does indicate how far the Democrat party has drifted.
But win or lose, my funk is because I’m increasingly concerned about what the combination of the people we elect and the Leviathan that has been created over 150 years of progressive “evolution” can do with unchecked power.
I hear that Barack Obama is the greatest threat to America and while I agree that Obama has been the vehicle for some terrible things, I am coming to see that the real issue has been with us for some time. I have to issue a bit of a mea culpa because I saw it happening under Bush and I said nothing because I largely agreed with his policies. The greatest threat to our Republic is not a single person, it is an unchecked executive branch.
The left accurately decried the creation of what they termed the “unitary executive” under Bush as they saw the executive steadily increase its scope and power…but I never trusted that the left was truly concerned about Bush’s use of executive power and the fact that they have been sitting mute for the past eight years as Obama has done things via executive fiat unseen since the days of FDR. The left will point out that Bush issued more executive orders – and while that is true, Bush’s EO’s are tame and timid compared to those of President Obama. Where Bush would use signing statements and EO’s to describe how he would enforce a certain aspect of a law, Obama uses his to simply ignore laws that he doesn’t like and create laws that he does.
The sad truth is that there seems to be a majority in both parties who are perfectly fine with this usurpation of authority just as long as it is their guy who is doing the usurping.
The US Constitution does describe three, co-equal branches of government, each with a sandbox to play in and each with the supposed power to check and balance the other – but there is a flaw in this construction. Part of it is what John Adams was warning about when he wrote this:
“…we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.”
I’ll circle back to this in a minute.
In study of the three branches, there is something that makes the executive branch significantly different from the legislative or the judicial. The legislative must filter its actions through the adversarial sieve of 535 individual members (435 in the House and 100 in the Senate). In practice, this makes the production of extremism rare. Of course, there are a few examples – in my opinion, the Patriot Act and Obamacare are two but they are two out of thousands of laws passed in these bodies.
The judicial is more prone to activism and extremism but even in it there are internal balancing mechanisms consisting of the appeals process, judicial review and eventually the review by a multi-member Supreme Court.
The one branch that has none of these internal controls – and relies only on self-control and respect for the Constitution – is the executive branch.
One must understand that the greatest opportunity for tyranny originates here in this branch because of its authoritarian command and control structure. By definition, this branch is the most totalitarian in design and it has the sole control of an army of unelected bureaucrats responsible for policing and enforcing a massive amount of administrative laws. This is a branch the most prone to extreme views and actions and there is only one individual who sets the tone for the behavior of this branch – the President of the United States of America. Every member of this branch serves at his pleasure.
Apropos to this line of thought, F. A Hayek wrote:
“Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own. They must, above all, be unreservedly committed to the person of the leader; but next to this the most important thing is that they should be completely unprincipled and literally capable of everything. They must have no ideals of their own which they want to realize; no ideas about right or wrong which might interfere with the intentions of the leader.”
Understanding this is why Adams’ quote is of paramount importance. The character of the person sitting behind the Resolute Desk determines whether this branch will be used to serve the citizens or to rule them.
In the past eight years, we have seen how little real power the judicial and legislative branches have over the executive, especially when there are enough of the leader’s party populating the other branches to block any oversight functions. Under Obama, the executive branch has made it a habit to ignore Congressional subpoena power and to simply ignore duly enacted laws. It also ignores any court ruling it views as inconvenient and most dangerous of all, it simply treats the Constitution as a dirty dishrag.
Sure, Obama is destroying the Republic through the executive branch – but what I worry about is what the next president will do if the other branches do not reassert themselves. This is why I believe that an unchecked executive in the hands of a person possessing human passions unbridled by morality and religion is the gravest of dangers America faces.