Princeton professor and Hillary Clinton campaign adviser Alan S. Blinder tries to explain the odd fact that Americans think the country is on the wrong track, even as there are signs of economic improvement.
He argues that the real reason for public frustration is political gridlock, and blames Republicans for it: “Each party deserves a share of the blame, I suppose, but certainly not an equal share. The fact is that congressional Republicans have blocked almost everything and proposed little.”
Blinder is completely wrong, and it is useful to illustrate exactly why he is wrong, because his misconception is shared rather widely among Democrats.
First, it is necessary to point out that the period of “gridlock” coincides with the period of economic recovery Blinder cites. The Tea Party wave of 2010 ensured that Democrats’ wild spending spree was over, and their more ambitious politics would be held in check. “Gridlock” restored a modicum of fiscal restraint and a degree of certainty to government in general.
As in the 1990s, when the economy boomed despite partisan clashes, gridlock is good when it stops government from doing bad.
Furthermore, the reason there is gridlock is simply that what President Barack Obama and the Democrats have attempted to do for eight years has gone beyond the boundaries of the the Constitution; beyond the previous limits of what both parties considered possible; and, often, beyond what they themselves promised voters that they would do.
- Obamacare. Obama actually campaigned in 2008 against the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. (“[S]he would force, in some fashion, individuals to purchase health care,” he warned.) Obamacare’s mandate was unconstitutional, and was only saved by the Supreme Court through Chief Justice Roberts’ rewriting of the statute, under pressure. Republicans opposed the bill not because they were obstructionist, as Blinder claims, but because they knew it would not work, and were ignored.
- Dodd-Frank. The bill that was sold to the public as a way to end “too big to fail” has decimated community banks, without actually solving the original problem. Meanwhile, the act’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to which Republicans had blocked both Elizabeth Warren and Richard Cordray’s appointment, has been struck down by the D.C. Circuit for the reason Republicans cited at the time — namely, that the director’s independent powers were totally unchecked and unconstitutional.
- Libya War. Obama rode opposition to the Iraq War to national prominence. Yet in Libya, he not only went to war without the approval of Congress — something not even the hated George W. Bush dared to do — but also repeated all of the mistakes of Iraq by failing to plan for the day after the Libyan regime fell. The terrorist surge that followed led to the Benghazi attack — a travesty for which Obama and Clinton have never been held accountable — and the spread of terror groups across the region.
- Government surveillance. On his way to power, Obama courted the leftist “netroots” by opposing the Bush administration’s surveillance programs. They were bitterly disappointed by his flip-flop in the middle of the 2008 campaign, when Obama was at pains to look like a commander-in-chief. And that was just the beginning: Edward Snowden revealed a vastly expanded effort to snoop on ordinary Americans and foreigners alike. Worse, Obama’s intelligence chief had lied to Congress about it.
- Iran deal. After promising to “eliminate” Iran’s nuclear program, Obama not only cut a deal that allows most of the regime’s nuclear infrastructure to stay in place, but also cut Congress out of it completely. He ignored the Constitution’s Treaty Clause, which requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, going first to the UN and presenting the deal as a fait accompli. Hapless Republicans actually helped him with the so-called “Corker bill,” which led to Democrats filibustering a vote on the deal.
- Executive amnesty. After explaining to impatient immigration activists that he was not “Emperor” and could not therefore simply order the legalization of millions of illegal aliens, Obama did just that — even after his party lost the 2014 midterm elections. Republicans complained that his actions were unconstitutional, and his “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans” (DAPA) was struck down by the courts. Now Hillary Clinton has vowed to go even further than Obama in executive actions.
These are just some of the more salient examples — and in many cases, these policies remain very unpopular.
Obama came into office with a plan for “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” abusing his mandate to force changes that only one party wanted — and that previous generations of Democrats would never have contemplated.
Given that reality, the question is not why Republicans created “gridlock,” but why they were not more effective in stopping Obama’s agenda.
Time and again, Republicans actually compromised. The Tea Party class of 2010 voted to pass the Budget Control Act and avoid default in 2011. They also accepted higher taxes on the rich in 2012. The GOP-led Senate, elected in 2014, allowed the Iran deal to slip by.
True, House Republicans blocked immigration reform, but look how Obama treats Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who put his career on the line for it: Obama campaigned against Rubio in Florida last week.
Donald Trump is the voters’ response to years of frustration.
The real obstructionists are Obama and the Democrats, who even defied the courts when their policies were overturned. And watching Hillary Clinton run for office when any ordinary person would have been prosecuted –for mis-handling classified information, destroying evidence, and lying under oath — has only added to Republicans’ justified anger, whether they support Trump or not.
Meanwhile, amidst sluggish economic growth, a collapsing foreign policy, and heightened fears about terrorism, Democrats refuse to understand their own party’s unconstitutional excesses and ongoing, self-made policy failures.
That, given the evidently strong possibility of a Hillary Clinton win in November, is the most worrying fact of all.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.