A the height of the Watergate Scandal, Democrats and Republicans alike decried the overreaches of President Nixon as an effort to establish an “imperial presidency.” People in both parties rightly recognized that President Nixon had amassed powers to the presidency that were never intended to be exercised by one branch of government, much less one person. As such, many political leaders and political observers saw such growth in the power of the presidency as a clear and present danger to the future of our free republic, and sought to restrain presidential authority in the aftermath. The process of President Nixon’s impending impeachment, and subsequent resignation, was proof that the American system of government still functioned as our founders intended; the country had continued under the Constitution even amidst a serious political crisis culminating in the collapse of a presidency.
In this second decade of the twenty-first century, it seems that we’re again approaching the point of a political crisis. President Obama’s concentration of executive authority is reaching and, in many cases, exceeding Nixonian accumulations. This presents yet another stiff challenge to our nation’s constitutionally established separation of powers.
The chilling difference now compared to the Nixon years is the total lack of media reporting on the President’s effort to amass power, and congressional reticence to rein him in. Left unchecked, the President will continue on unabated, with Constitutional obstacles, namely the Congress, being totally ineffectual at stopping his advance. This should concern all Americans, regardless of their political ideology. As a conservative, I would not support a Republican president pushing through his or her agenda without as much as the consent of the Congress. This is because, while I have political priorities, the maintenance of the political system in our country is, in itself, the highest policy priority. To achieve policy success at the cost of the country’s free political institutions is a hollow victory at best. This, however, is a concern that the far left of Mr. Obama’s base simply doesn’t comprehend; they continue to applaud his prodding and ridiculing of Congress, because he is giving them what they want…for now.
Presidents have rarely criticized Congress as viciously as President Obama, for he holds not only a respectful disagreement on policy, but a disdainful disregard of their equivalency to the presidency. While the President of the United States is the head of state, and the single most powerful officer of the federal government, the executive branch (presidency) as an institution is co-equal with Congress. There is a difference in one person being the leader of the nation and their office controlling the nation. The president has power, but only that power which is allocated to him by the Constitution. When the President condemns Congress because it is gridlocked, and then seeks to circumvent it to advance his own agenda, he is effectively ignoring the will of the people. Congress may be dysfunctional, but it is representative of the people of these United States, and it accurately reflects our ideological and political divide at this present moment. So, while this may prove inconvenient to the President’s political and policy agendas, our system of government is working exactly how the founder’s envisioned it.
For the President to seek unprecedented powers in the name of the people is duplicitous and dangerous. It is the people’s representatives in Congress who he is consistently circumventing with executive orders on everything from marriage to so-called “climate change.” Regardless of one’s positions on these issues, we should all agree as Americans that there is a way to advance a policy agenda, and destroying the nation’s political system in the process isn’t it.
For Further Reading, I would Recommend Daniel Henniger’s article “Obama’s Creeping Authoritarianism” at the WSJ: