Kevin D. Williamson recounts some of the unsavory aspects of POTUS’s fondness for executive orders* and reminds that any subsequent president may also decide (s)he can circumvent the legislature simply because (s)he doesn’t approve of how it conducts its business. Maybe a President Cruz, President Rubio, President Fiorina . . .”
Or, angels and ministers of grace defend us, President Trump. Last week, the civically illiterate reality-television grotesque declared before a meeting of a policemen’s union that one of his first acts in office would be to issue an executive order mandating capital punishment for anybody convicted of murdering a police officer. Never mind that the president has no such power and that Trump doesn’t seem to understand the difference between state and federal law; we have so quickly accustomed ourselves to believing that anything that sounds good to us is right and proper (“constitutional” in 2015 anno Domini means “I like it”) that no one other than a few persnickety constitutionalists (that suspicious foreigner Charles C. W. Cooke leaps to mind) even bothered to note how nuts Trump’s promise is. In this, as in many things, Trump resembles Barack Obama and the Clinton mob, who have been, it bears remembering, his traditional political allies.
Our susceptibility to this sort of demagoguery isn’t Barack Obama’s fault — it’s our fault, a failure of citizenship among Americans. There are (and long have been) stirrings of that kind of sentiment in some parts of the populist Right, but those vices generally are kept in check by conservatives’ practically scriptural regard for the Constitution. The Left has no such fetters upon its worst tendencies. Progressives since Woodrow Wilson have regarded the Constitution, and the order that it represents, as a hindrance to the rational, scientific management of society by heavily armed experts. If that is how you see the world, then of course the Bill of Rights, like the state of Pennsylvania, is just one more thing that gets in your way when you’re trying to get to where you want to be. Of course you can jail people for their political beliefs. Of course the president should supersede Congress.
But if honor, decency, prudence, or regard for the American constitutional order won’t convince our increasingly autocratic antagonists on the Left that political absolutism and an imperial presidency aren’t the way to go, maybe the prospect of President Cruz will do the trick. But that would, of course, necessitate thinking about the question seriously for five minutes, something that the Party of Obama in the Age of Obama seems unwilling or unable to do.
*Here’s how Williamson puts it:
If Congress won’t do what I want, I’ll do it on my own through executive orders, Constitution be damned. The president’s approach here has to be understood in the wider context of the Democratic party’s newfound commitment to totalitarianism: attempting to repeal the First Amendment, seeking to lock people up for expressing unpopular political opinions, proposing that Americans be stripped of their constitutional rights (with no due process, trial, or appeal) if the president puts their names on a secret list, outlawing unapproved criticism of political figuresby private citizens, denouncing political opponents as “traitors” and demanding that nonconformists be punished for “disloyalty” while making glib references to martial law, etc.