The Conversation

A Republic, if you can keep it, or even if you don't want it any more

Much hay is being made over a Washington Post poll that purports to show 52 percent public support for President Obama's imperial regime of rule by executive order.  

But that's not the question the poll asked.  It stated the situation as a truth right out of a high-school civics handbook, and asked the public if they agree with it: "Presidents have the power in some cases to bypass Congress and take action by executive order to accomplish their Administration's goals.  Is this approach something you support or oppose?"

I can't imagine a more slanted way to ask that question, short of something like "Do you support the President's right to use executive orders when people are really hurting, and a small band of anti-government extremists is holding Congress hostage?"  It's actually headline news that the Post still found 46 percent opposition to the question it asked.  In fact, that level of opposition is amazing to me, and I'm on a tireless crusade to make it 100 percent because I think we're in danger of losing the Republic.  

Are the Obama supporters touting this poll telling us that anything supported by 51 percent of the public is justified, or even imperative?  In that case, kiss ObamaCare goodbye, guys.  I'm always on guard against the tyranny of the majority, but I confess it's rather amusing to see the Left insisting that such tyranny is authorized by a mere 52 percent majority.  This is the absurd final reduction of exactly what the Founders designed our republican system to thwart: five wolves and four sheep holding a simple majority vote on whether to have mutton for dinner.

The two percent who purport to have "no opinion" evoke a rueful chuckle as well.  You're not allowed to have "no opinion," kids.  That's the point of all this.  You won't escape the notice of the Imperial President by asking to be left out of this discussion.  You will be required to participate in rule by decree.  There is no resistance, no input from your elected representatives, no escape from federal command.

At any rate, the idea behind having a Constitution is that its strictures, including the lawful separation of powers, are not meant to be discarded because 52 percent of the public think it's okay.  Our system is meant to check both imperial political ambition and the transitory passions of the public.  We're supposed to have vigorous debates within a framework of limited powers, where certain things simply are not up for debate unless the Constitution is amended, no matter how many sympathetic people are lined up for photo ops.

The executive has certain powers, to be sure.  But the sphere of rogue executive action must be kept very small, because otherwise you get what amounts to rule by the media: the President does whatever he wants, fearing nothing except a media-driven popular backlash that might injure the political prospects of his party.  Too many of the laws restraining federal power have become entirely hypothetical exercises - dead toys that come to life only when Big Media decides to put batteries in them.  

An important lesson to draw from Obama's adventure into imperial one-man rule: if you care about liberty and restrained government at all, it is absolutely imperative that you vote Republican for president, even if you don't really like the candidate.  Vote Democrat in local elections if you must, but the only way to restrain dictatorial ambition is to ensure the Oval Office is occupied by a Republican the media dislikes.  It's increasingly obvious that's the only way to keep tabs on the Administration at all, never mind thwarting its will.


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