The Conversation

Time to give up on the separation of powers?

If the Democrats take enough hostages during Shutdown Theater to get their way, and the House eventually passes a "clean" resolution to fund the entire government plus ObamaCare, it might be time to think about doing away with the House of Representatives.  What purpose does its serve any more?  The "power of the purse" is entirely theoretical, good for nothing but theatrics.  The Administration can use its vast powers to beat American to its knees, any time the House tries to control government spending.

Furthermore, Obama has set the precedent that the House's investigative powers are essentially meaningless.  Conclusions of wrongdoing can be stonewalled into irrelevance; demands for transparency can be ignored; "accountability" is a sick joke in an Administration that dismisses no one after scandals like Fast and Furious, the IRS abuses of power, or Benghazi.  The only way congressional investigations could be meaningful is if the media chooses to flog a scandal on the front page.  If all the power for demanding accountability therefore resides in the privately funded media, we don't need the expensive House of Representatives any more.

The House was originally supposed to express a popular voice, while the Senate would serve as state government's vehicle for influencing Washington.  That's also a complete joke now.  Senators have been elected by popular vote for the past century, rather than being delegated by state governments, as originally intended.  The idea of state governments influencing the federal Leviathan is laughable - it's headline news when a governor manages to defy federal commands, as Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin did, when he canceled Obama's Shutdown Theater performances in his state.

But what do we need the Senate for, anyway?  If we're going to have an all-powerful executive whose only check is the need to win re-election, we don't have budgets any more, and Administration demands for funding must be met in full - without anything more than token rhetorical opposition - it's hard to see why Americans should spend the time and money electing a rubber-stamp legislature.  If the debt ceiling must be raised without delay, automatically, every time it comes up, there's really no point in having a "debt ceiling" at all, much less paying billions of dollars to elect and maintain the body that pretends to vote on it.  You can attend local kabuki theater performances for far less than we pay to elect and maintain congressional representatives, and you'll have a lot more fun.  

Getting rid of Congress would eliminate that pesky "special deals for ObamaCare" problem.  We'd have 535 fewer people immune to most of our nation's laws, which really aren't "laws" in the literal sense of the word anyway.  They're more properly understood as diktats or commands, modified by the Executive on a whim, as Obama has changed his signature health care act, or ignored immigration laws when it suited him, or failed to comply with the statutory requirements for preparing a federal budget.  Dispensing with Congress would allow us to maintain a much smaller (but still quite hefty!) staff to draft Presidential edicts, which could be submitted to the Supreme Court - the only other part of the federal government that still has any real power - for legal review.  Frankly, our legal code would be less complicated if it was merely a set of executive commands.  A lot of the really crazy junk gets inserted into those gigantic bills during congressional deal-making.

Reducing the number of politicians worth buying in Washington from 536, to one, should leave us with a bit less net corruption.  We've been living under five years of government for the benefit of Barack Obama's friends, cronies, and ideological soul mates; it's hard to see how clipping Congress out of the picture would make the situation much different.  It's not as if Congress proved any help in stopping outrages like the "stimulus" heist or the "green energy" debacle, or held much of anyone accountable for them.

The totalitarian Left has been fantasizing about the glory of an elected emperor holding sway for a couple of four-year terms, ever since Obama was elected.  Everyone from Woody Allen to New York Times editorial writers have wished Obama could rule as a king, with the authoritarian power of the Chinese Politburo, subject only to popular elections - the one and only check on central government power the Left still pretends it wants.  And it mostly keeps up that pretense because it understands the value of "democracy" as a soothing tonic to people who require only the promise of a tiny voice in government to surrender their liberties willingly.

We were given a system of separated powers and divided government by our Founders to put a check on the volatile appetites of the masses, and restrain the growth of central authority.  The current "shutdown" crisis is the last gasp of that old system.  Almost all of official Washington and its Beltway media, including some conservatives, expects the separation of powers to eventually collapse, as the House surrenders the last illusion of its authority to the executive branch and Democrat-controlled Senate.  ObamaCare is a catastrophic failure, but the people have been told they can never be rid of it - they're not even allowed to vote on it any more.  

If we accept that argument and give Obama everything he wants, locking in our course of destruction for utter insolvency not long after he leaves office... if we concede the central government can never be restrained, even when it fails, even when it no longer pretends to exercise only the powers delegated to it by the people, which means only spending the money We the People have chosen to give it... it's hard to justify keeping Congress around any longer.  Our destiny has been written through deficit spending - we will forever be told that we have no choice but to provide enough taxes and borrowing authority to "pay the bills Congress has already incurred."  The midterm elections are just a warm-up act for the next presidential race - the only national political contest that really matters.  Congressional elections are just a sham, a series of false hopes.  Shutdown Theater is the brutal reality.  

Update: A further thought... the only way Shutdown Theater could possibly play out any differently would be a veto-proof opposition party majority in Congress.  The exact same media environment and brutal Administration tactics would be deployed against anything less than a huge GOP majority in both houses of Congress.  It might be a bit tougher for Obama to pretend it's "all Republicans' fault" if he didn't have Harry Reid to quietly murder every funding bill pushed out of the House, and had to kill them with veto threats instead, but much of the media would still parrot his shutdown narrative.

So... the only way Congress could still be truly relevant under the Obama model is the most divided possible electorate - a time of almost inconceivable strife in which a sea of ticket-splitters elected a President from one party, and the bulk of Congress from the other.  That seems highly unlikely, except possibly as a result of midterm election buyer's remorse.  

Wouldn't it be easier to provide such a midterm balance on executive power by doing away with Congress and providing for a presidential recall election every two years, or merely shortening the all-powerful President's term to two years?  Shorten the term for Supreme Court justices, or make them subject to recall elections, and you've got something close to the more "democratic" system the Left has always dreamed about.  The popular vote would become the sole check on power - we authorize an authoritarian government to run our lives for a couple of years, and vote them out of office if they violate the "popular will" too much, and too often.  

Of course, the liberals who fantasize about this have always been unrealistic about just how much an almighty executive can shape the "popular will," or even get away with openly defying it, when it has so many tools at its disposal to win the favor of a workable voting majority every couple of years.


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