The Dangerous Attack on Constitutional Government

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United States Constitution

United States Constitution

The United States is in great danger from those who advocate, condone or simply ignore the trend towards defying Constitutional mandates and practices.

America is about to turn a corner in which a movement that has engaged in the practices of ignoring Constitutional provisions and applying a different standard of law for the powerful, while pursuing the supremacy of government by power and influence rather than by rule of law, seeks to retain the White House.

The spokespersons for that movement have not been shy. In an interview reported by MRCTV  Secretary of State John Kerry hailed Obama “for his ability to ‘circumvent Congress’ in getting parts of his energy policy enacted.”  Whether acting domestically in his assaults on the coal industry, or internationally in his acceptance of the Paris Climate “accord,” the White House ignored the legislative branch and the Constitutional provisions which require its assent. In essence, the President acted as a one-man government.

The reduction of the Constitution from its position as the controlling law of the land has been an ongoing and increasing threat. While many presidents have at times quietly exceeded their authority, the blatant and open institutionalization of this practice during the past eight years has been extreme and exceptional.

Whether in direct statements from Mr. Obama that he would “not wait for Congress to Act,” and that he had a “pen and a phone” and would not hesitate to use them if Congress did not acquiesce to his will,  or in the use of the IRS to harass opposition political groups, or the overarching influence of major Democrat political donors such as Tom Steyer over the Environmental Protection Agency, or the transformation of the Department of Justice into a partisan agency, the exclusion of Constitutional practices in favor of “strong man” tactics has been dire and dangerous.

The Justice Department example is one that should worry every citizen.  J. Christian Adams, who served in the Voting section of the Justice Department, describes how the Obama Administration changed the organization’s hiring practices to ensure that only radical leftists would wield influence—and use that influence for partisan purposes. He described, in his book “Injustice” how the supposedly neutral government agency sided with political bosses.

While Adams concentrates on the Justice Department’s role in election law, the same problems exist in that agency’s misdeeds regarding Hillary Clinton’s email violations. The indictment of other figures for committing deeds similar to but far lesser in scope than the former Secretary of States’ email crimes, while refusing to indict Clinton, is a clear example of how political considerations rather than the objective enforcement of the law motivates government agencies in the Obama-Clinton era.

In many ways, the overwhelming influence of partisan political interests over federal agencies during the Obama Administration resembles the role of Communist Party commissars over the Soviet State or the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.  (Before pundits go wild and claim we are comparing the Obama Administration to Communists or Nazis, which we are not, the point we are making is that the extraordinary influence of political interests over nonpartisan ones in government agencies does have historical antecedents in those prior and unsavory regimes.)

Historical examples provide clear warnings of what can happen when central governing documents containing strictly observed guarantees of rights do not exist. American slavery provides one such illustration. Africans transported to the colonies were at first considered indentured servants, similar to those from Europe. There was a reasonable expectation that after a stated period of time, they would be freed.  But the elites of the time—wealthy property owners, and those claiming to have scientific expertise in the matter—found it more convenient to keep blacks in bondage.  Absent a guarantee of rights, slavery was born. Even after the practice ended following the Civil War, a willingness to ignore the newly enacted Thirteenth Amendment (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”) deprived blacks of many of their rights.

It should be noted that the same political party that supported slavery and then, in defiance of the Constitution, segregation, now supports the President and other politicians that espouse defying  Constitutional mandates.

The historical antecedents of the Obama Administration’s disregard for the Constitution have been brewing for many years in leftist circles. Writing in The Nation  almost 30 years ago, Howard Zinn stated: “… like other historic documents, the Constitution is of minor importance compared with the actions that citizens take, especially when those actions are joined in social movements…A constitution is a fine adornment for a democratic society, but it is no substitute for the energy, boldness and concerted action of the citizens.”

The concept was echoed numerous times over the intervening years. Professor Michael Seidman, writing in 2012  in the New York Times, argued: “…observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken.  But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.”

Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru, writing in National Review, notes that

“mainstream liberals now advance a vision of American government that is increasingly contemptuous of our system’s democratic character and that seeks to break through the restraints of the constitutional system in pursuit of their policy ends.  They advance this vision in three ways. First, contemporary liberalism has come to ardently champion executive unilateralism…the second way…is closely connected to the first: today’s left is the party of the administrative state, which is often the means by which executive unilateralism operates but is also far more than that. The term ‘administrative state’ refers to the tangle of regulatory agencies that populate the executive branch, including the least nominally ‘independent.’ They increasingly govern beyond the control of the other branches and therefore at times generally outside the confines of our constitutional system.” Levin and Ponnuru add a third way: a judicial branch that advocates an agenda rather than enforces the law. “Liberals want everyone but Congress—at least so long as they do not control it—to advance… [their] agenda.”

In a recent Constitution Day speech, Senator Warren Hatch (R-Utah) noted:

“Unfortunately, there are some today who view the Constitution as an obstacle to overcome, a barrier to supposed progress… Surely the exigencies of the day, they argue, warrant bypassing or even ignoring the separation of powers, federalism, and other critical elements of our constitutional structure.   Although some of these individuals may be well intentioned, they are fundamentally misguided…The Constitution limits government in order to preserve freedom.  It makes each branch the equal of the others and the states the equals of Washington, DC.  It provides a check on all government action.  It divides power among multiple sources because no one individual or office can be trusted with all authority.  And it requires cooperation at all levels and all stages to ensure that changes in law are thoroughly vetted rather than rammed through by temporary majorities.  These are the principles that should guide us as we seek solutions to our Nation’s challenges…Legislation that preserves the separation of powers rather than delegating vast lawmaking authority to an unelected bureaucracy also honors the Constitution’s teachings.  So do regulations that stay within the bounds of agency authority.  When agencies exceed their statutory mandate, they do violence to the Constitution’s careful system of checks of balances.  They assume power that is not theirs to take and remove decisions from the give-and-take of the democratic process.  This is particularly problematic when the obvious purpose of the agency action is to bypass Congress.”

What is truly worrisome about the anti-Constitutional statements and actions by many leftists/progressive politicians, pundits and others is that the basic thrust of their argument is not just a revision or even a total rewrite of the document that has made the United States the world’s most successful nation, but for the elimination of a guiding document at all.  Their vision replaces the ideology of the American Revolution and its subsequent philosophy of a government restrained by law with that of the French and Russian revolutions, in which an elitist leadership accumulates power unto itself and imposes, without the restriction or restraint of law, its vision upon a people that are not truly citizens but instead mere subjects.

 

Originally published on New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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