If I were the governor of a state, I would ignore any unconstitutional claims to executive power coming from the White House. That’s right. Ignore it. That’s an easy thing for a pundit to dash off. One would have to grow huge cojones to take such a stand. But isn’t it time somebody did? In fact, one lone governor might not do the trick. A coalition of governors, however — I’m looking at you, Bob McDonnell — could be just what the doctor ordered.
President Obama is trying to legislate by fiat. Governors, it’s time you exercised your executive powers. Instruct all agencies in your states to enforce the law as written. Ignore all executive orders from Washington because they are not law. Presidents don’t make law. Take a stand for federalism, for the Constitution and for the rule of law. Be the check.
Let things get ugly
If the president doesn’t like it? Let things get ugly. It’s going to get a lot uglier if executives can act with impunity. Yes, the White House will threaten you. And you can tell the world exactly how the White House is threatening you. Let the whole process be transparent. Be prepared for anything. If you don’t stop this president from becoming a dictator, who will? Let him behave like a dictator. Let him show his true colors to the citizens. You will go down in history either as liberty’s paladin or liberty’s martyr. Either way, it’s better than kissing the ring by default.
By failing to act, you ensure all future presidents grab the same dictatorial powers. It’s this ends-justify-the-means mentality that will destroy the Republic. You care about the Constitution you swore to uphold, right? He doesn’t.
One might think unchecked executive power is a great idea — as long as your tribe is in power. But that’s daydreaming. Even if we preserved some form of democratically elected dictatorship, we will usher in an age of wild swings in which power runs nearly unchecked for four years until another nearly unchecked power is ushered in by the electoral mob and runs in the opposite direction. It will cause tremendous uncertainty and unrest — the kind of society the Founders wanted to prevent.
As David Harsanyi reminds us:
[I]n “The Federalist,” Paper 51, Publius writes: “In a republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments.”
How quickly we forget our secular scriptures.
Why not Congress?
Congress is composed primarily of milquetoasts who have been captured by special interests. Some “progressive” legislators are even lauding Obama’s excesses. They don’t like being blocked by any opposition in their attempts to push through this or that bill. (I happen to agree with efforts to liberalize and modernize our immigration system, for example.) But it just ain’t cool to legislate from the White House. It is opening Pandora’s Box. It is dangerous and can no longer be tolerated.
So what should be done? It’s time for a federalist showdown: an evocation of states’ rights by governors locking arms in solidarity. Refuse excessive executive power from Washington and the people will back you. It’s time to draw a line in the sand. And if you’re more Machiavellian side says you like the idea of legislating from the Oval Office once you’re there? Remember what Thomas Jefferson said about how the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time.
Max Borders is the author of the forthcoming “Superwealth” (Fall 2012).