The Big Government machine grinds on


In response to Rise of the ‘Uber Presidency’: Obama Promises More Executive Overrreach In 2014:

The scary thing is that even many people who object to the Obama agenda won’t object, in principle, to him forcing it through with executive orders and Congressional end-runs.  This is partly due to the perpetually dismal public approval of Congress (which, itself, is hardly surprising, since any given voter who is paying attention has good reasons to dislike nearly everyone except the representatives he voted for, and maybe a few high-profile stalwarts… and the stalwarts tend to be lightning rods for both support and opposition.)  

Obama is hardly making a fool’s bet by positioning himself as the enemy of the hated Congress, although it remains surprising that he can sucker so many people into believing he’s an outsider who has nothing to do with congressional partisan politics, or even the workings of his own White House.

But this rule-by-fiat strategy of Obama’s also works because the public has been conditioned to despise paralysis and “gridlock” above all other things.  Government doing the wrong thing, the wrong way, is less objectionable to them than government doing nothing at all.  The Leviathan State is like a shark: it survives by moving.  

That’s one reason the public reacted with visceral disapproval to the partial shutdown, even before Obama’s goon squads got busy barricading half the country to make the shutdown visible and painful.  (Ah, for the more innocent days of three months ago, when the media had absolutely no problem whatsoever with an administration deliberately inconveniencing the public for political gain!)  The idea of our mega-government “seizing up” in some way is reflexively interpreted as symbolic of a broken system.  It doesn’t take a lot of Shutdown Theater to ferment those feelings into deadly water-cooler conversation from people who were not, in any way, personally affected by the partial shutdown.

Personally, I’d advise people to see the mindless, automatic growth of the State as a more ominous sign of dysfunction that the occasional gridlock seizure, but Big Government benefits from making itself indispensable to the electorate it feeds upon.  That also means people reflexively applaud the idea of government acting boldly and decisively on behalf of The Little Guy / The Children / Working Families / The Unemployed / et cetera.  

The idea of arbitrary legal or procedural restraints on power, when Something Urgently Needs To Be Done Right This Instant, has become distasteful to people, and that softens them up for arguments that they should relinquish the separation of powers, statutory limits on executive power, congressional deliberation, and other mechanisms designed to save them from Big Government predators.  

Nothing is more alarming that the growing tendency to invest absolute power in the President because he’s (a) term-limited and (b) the only politician we all get to vote for.  Fortunately, the courts have been stepping up to check some of these abuses of executive power, and in any event, the elevation of the Presidency to benevolent-dictator status is easily reversed by the simple expedient of electing a Republican in 2016.