By Jon Dougherty
Our founders gave us a near-perfect system of government and then were forced to trust its posterity to imperfect beings, so it’s no wonder we have Obama, feckless Republican leaders and a constitutional crisis on our hands
“A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
That is the reply Dr. Benjamin Franklin gave to a woman who asked him, upon his exit from the final day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, what form of government had been adopted.
These days, watching the leadership of the party of small government in action leaves conservatives wondering if keeping the republic is going to be doable.
That Barack Hussein Obama wants to “fundamentally transform” the country into something it was never intended to be is obvious. The man who channels Saul Alinsky’s radical leftism 24/7/365 will be working overtime during his remaining two years in office to tear down one traditional American institution after another, especially when it comes to government. He’s made that patently obvious with his Obamacare, executive amnesty, various wealth redistribution policies, and his latest pushes for stealth gun control and command over the Internet.
But the feckless GOP leadership seems impotent at best, and incompetent at worst, to even slow down this president, much less stop him from acting, and that’s after conservatives gave them landslide electoral victories all over the country and in Washington, D.C., based on promises they’d do just that.
Consider the latest charade over “defunding Obama’s executive amnesty.” Despite pre-election promises that “Republicans would stop” Obama’s drive to legalize, through the back door, millions of people who broke U.S. immigration laws, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have caved to the president and minority Democrats by fully funding Obama’s unconstitutional act.
No question this is political cowardice at its pinnacle – can’t upset the U.S. Chamber of Commerce donation stream, after all. What is worse, however, is that it helps perpetuates the existence of the very thing preventing a return of the republic Franklin and the other founders created: The administrative state.
Over the past century successive congresses and presidents have passed laws that called for the creation of one federal bureaucracy after another, so that today, there are more than 430 of them. This federal bureaucracy now serves as a law-making extension of the Executive branch, giving presidents the kind of power not even the most ardent Federalist envisioned. Unless it is taken apart piece by piece, the constitutional system of passing laws – bills passed by Congress and signed by the president (or passed over a presidential veto) – will continue to be used less and less. Tyrants are made in such circumstances.
What’s more, Obama has been the most aggressive advocate in modern times of using this extra-constitutional bureaucratic rulemaking process to impose his will in precisely the manner the founders sought to prevent.
But he’s had plenty of help along the way. Republican leaders in the House before the midterms, and since, GOP leaders in both chambers, have been unwilling to exert their power to counter the president’s moves. If you have the power but choose not to use it, you may as well not have it at all. Checks and balances built into the system don’t do much good when they are not employed.
This is precisely the situation Franklin was referring to in his response to the woman. He and the other founders knew that, in order to “keep” the republic, the American people, through their elected leaders, would have to want to keep it.
For their part, ordinary Americans have spoken. In a very loud manner, they have said, yes, they do indeed want to keep it. By electing unprecedented numbers of Republicans last November, Americans were saying they wanted constitutional push back against the president’s historic overreach.
As we have seen, however, GOP leaders have ignored the plea.
The current situation in Washington has thus exposed a fundamental truth (not a flaw, a truth) about small-‘r’ republicanism, and that is this: Human nature can undo even the most perfect of political systems. It takes virtue among those elected to serve to want to do the right thing, to want to adhere to the letter and spirit of the law and the Constitution, and to want to exert power and influence over others who seek to usurp authority and operate outside of their boundaries. Franklin knew this too.
Conservatives understand that Democrats like Obama (and all Democrats are pretty much like Obama) have no interest in virtue because they have demonstrated as much with constant usurpations of the law, procedure and tradition. But we also now know that our party leadership lacks virtue as well.
Is it even possible for us to keep our republic? Or has “the system” become so corrupt that it is insulated from our angst and therefore well-positioned to preserve the status quo, no matter how many times we write letters, stage protests and vote?
Time will tell, of course, but Obama’s antics and the effort put in by the “opposition party” to make sure he gets away with it leaves me pessimistic.
Our Founders worked tirelessly to give us the best possible government they could and look what it’s become. Political cowardice is a good term for what we’re currently seeing. For someone who promised to fight for our republic, it sure didn’t take the Rs long to give the reins back to the O and the dems. McConnell caves and gives clean bills to the Senate dems and Boehner does the same thing and tells the House it’s time to move on to other things.
For the life of me I can’t figure out what strong powers they possess that makes this seem inevitable. When you combine this with what’s going on in the rest of the world, then yes, I’m starting to have my doubts – how about y’all?