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Twilight (Zone) of the Republic - jordan179
April 10th, 2014
07:44 am


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Twilight (Zone) of the Republic

So ... does anyone else feel that they are living a dystopian near-future novel?  Perhaps one of the mildly-absurdist ones popular in the science fiction of the late 1950's through 1970's?

See, the President of the United States has -- over the last couple of years -- essentially been legislating by Executive Order.  Meaning, ruling by decree.

An Executive Order is meant to apply in two general fields:  matters wholly affecting the Executive Branch, and emergency decisions.  Which is to say, redeployment of Executive Branch resources, and situations where decisions must be taken fast.  This makes sense -- the Congress can't be bothered to pass laws about every major shift in agency functions, nor would we want to depend on Congress if, say, there were a threat of imminent attack which could not be met given existing laws.

But Obama isn't limiting his use of Executive Orders to such fields.  He is issuing Executive Orders regarding situations which are not even governmental (most recently, the one requiring equal pay for men and women, as to be decided by the agencies) and ones which involve the long-term applications of laws (most notably, Obamacare, which has been repeatedly revised by Executive Order).

Why is this bad?  Because there is literally no limit to what Executive Orders the President -- whether this President, or any other President -- might choose to issue.  There are, of course, Constitutional limits, but then the President is already using such Orders unconstiutionally and is not being effectively challenged on this.

What, for instance, would prevent him from issuing a "Congressional Co-operation Monitoring and Compliance Executive Order," declaring that security personnel be stationed in the Congress and that any Congresspersons voting in a manner that he deems "non-cooperative" be immediately taken into custody and his vote ignored?  Or an "Undesirable Persons Termination Order," granting himself the power to kill anyone he deemed, for whatever reason he deemed, provided only that he deems them "undesirable"?

The Constitution provides for only two remedies for a President behaving as unconstitutionally as is Obama.  The first, appeal to the Supreme Court, is too slow -- Obama can issue Executive Orders faster than any challenges could make their way through the Federal Appeals process; what's more, since he is breaking the Constitution anyway, there is nothing stopping him from simply reissuing the struck-down order with slightly-different wording (yes, that's unconstitutional, but "sue me."  Literally).

The other is impeachment.  This is also fairly slow (though a really-frightened Congress could go through the process rapidly if they wanted to do so) but has the signal advantage that -- if successful -- the President is no longer a threat, because he is then no longer the President.  Unfortunately, the Congressional Democrats are so happy to have not only a Democratic President, but America's first "black" President (in quotes because he's actually only about a quarter black) that they are apparently willing to let the Republic fall rather than impeach Obama.

The final sanction, of course, is extra-Constitutional, but might have the color of Constitutionality if the other two branches of government agreed upon it -- military countercoup-from-below to oppose the coup-from-above that Obama seems to be launching.  This was actually contemplated in 1974 against Richard M. Nixon when the military feared that he might refuse to step down if impeached and convicted.

This has never happened in the history of the Republic -- if it did happen, it would be a terribly-dangerous precedent, as it would prove that Presidents could be unmade without reference to actual impeachment and conviction.  But it would be the only alternative to submission, if Obama for instance chose to respond to the initiation of an impeachment process by the unlawful detention or murder of the Congress, or the credible threat of such action.

Now here is where the weirdness comes in.  I had always imagined, before around 2013, that if a President overstepped his Constitutional authority this far, the other branches of government -- and the media -- would be frantic to stop him.  I had imagined that there might even be widespread resistance to him in the Executive Branch itself, as honorable officials leaped to try to save the Republic they had sworn to protect.

What do we see right now?  Silence.  Or worse:  the media is congratulating Obama on his "bold" new Executive Orders:

"Mr. Stalin took a bold new move today with the liquidation of the kulaks, which should totally reform our agricultural system!"

"Mr. Hitler's order to eliminate the Jews from public life will greatly improve our culture!"

and so on.

Some people may argue that Obama's executive orders are a good thing because they are aimed at good ends.  The problem is that even if they are (and I would dispute that contention), if he is able to do this and get away with it without consequence, the next set of Executive Orders may be aimed at bad ends.  The goodness or badness of the ends involved does not matter from the point of view of their Constitutionality, what is relevant is that Obama is issuing Executive Orders to permanently substitute for legislation, which is flat-out forbidden by the US Constitution.  He's carrying out a Legislative Branch function.

"Well, he's just doing the job that Congress won't."

Indeed, which is the problem -- if Congress chooses not to act on a legislative issue, that is the choice of Congress, and it is part of what we elected them to do.  Inaction is also a choice.

"Who will liquidate the kulaks if Stalin doesn't?  Who will get the Jews out of the universities if Hitler doesn't?"

Simply letting the kulaks or Jews alone would have been better choices here, and Stalin and Hitler were not doing their countries any favor by acting "boldly" to solve these "problems."

And if you trust Barack Hussein Obama with absolute power then you may be happy about this, but consider:  he will not be President forever.  Even if he issues an Executive Order declaring himself God-King for Life, abolishing the next Presidential election; or (more likely) simply enforces the Federal Election laws in 2014 and 2016 in such a way as to ensure the installation of a Democratic President and Congress in 2017, he is still not an immortal, nor can he ensure that the next President will please you quite so well.

So we are in the Twilight Zone of the Republic, in which we still have an ostensibly democratic electoral process, an ostensibly republican constitution, but the process is increasingly being subverted by direct administrative interference, the Constitution increasingly ignored by the President -- and no one in any position of authority seems to give a damn.

A thousand or more years later, when some human polity rediscovers the constitutional, democratic, republican form of government, they will not judge us highly now for the way in which we sit supinely watching our Republic slip away from us.

We are in the 1st century BC right now, and our Caesar is coming.  He may have already been born.  And, presently, our Augustus.

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(14 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:April 10th, 2014 03:59 pm (UTC)
I read through this post from top to bottom thinking that what you were describing was remarkably like late Republic Rome, which is probably the historical period (other than the 20th century, which I studied at Oxford) that I'm most familiar with.

I don't see Obama as a Julius Caesar figure, but he certainly could be Tiberius Gracchus.

I'd not heard about the 1974 considered anti-Nixon military coup before. That's very interesting, because there was supposedly similar plot against the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the late 60s. (Not a very serious one perhaps, although supposedly Earl Mountbatten* was asked if he would head an emergency government to restore order.) Over the years, many people have suspected Wilson of being a Soviet sympathiser and apparently MI5 had kept a file on him since the 1940s.

Nothing has ever been proven. However, the largest financial backer of the Labour Party at that time was the Transport and General Workers' Union. A 1977 poll showed that more than half of British people questioned thought that the most powerful man in the country wasn't Wilson, it was the TGWU leader Jack Jones. And when KGB agent Oleg Gordievsky defected to the west in 1987, he identified Jones as a KGB spy. (Jones denied this.)

* Uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Southeast Asia in WW2, last Viceroy of India before independence, former head of the Royal Navy, former Chairman of NATO Military Committee and Chief of the Defence Staff. He was assassinated by the IRA in 1979.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2014 12:49 am (UTC)
Obama is not our Caesar -- he's far too incompetent. He has mostly gotten as far as he did because of our immense guilt over slavery and racial discrimination. This is ironic, because he is half white American and roughly a quarter Arab -- he is descended more from cultures which enslaved black Africans than he is from black Africans. He is of course not at all descended from black Americans, nor was he ever significantly part of the black American culture he claims to represent.

The military coup in 1974 would have been a counter-coup, to be launched only if Nixon launched a coup-from-above. The military was getting ready if necessary to obey their oaths of office and defend the Constitution and the Republic for which it stands.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2014 02:31 pm (UTC)
At the risk of being pilloried by some readers, the seeming majority of Americans don't care what things actually are, only what they seem to be or what they are told they are. For all the guilt and other intents and purposes of most involved, Obama is "black enough" -- both to make some feel better about themselves and the nation and some have an easier time sociopolitically manipulating others. Smoke and mirrors signifying "security" for many.

And yes, the Executive Orders he is throwing about set a *very* bad precedent.
[User Picture]
Date:April 13th, 2014 12:06 am (UTC)
the seeming majority of Americans don't care what things actually are, only what they seem to be or what they are told they are.

Yes ... which may doom our democracy. Because if the electorate no longer cares about something as simple and basic as their chosen leaders being competent or even loyal, then they can no longer be trusted with choosing the leadership -- which means that in time the leadership will be either be chosen by other means, or the country will collapse.
[User Picture]
Date:April 10th, 2014 04:33 pm (UTC)
I think even more dangerous than Obama pen and phone are the regulatory commissions that apparently have total control over every aspect of our lives, from our healthcare, to our property, to the lunches kids are eating at school. This, to me, is where the real power lies in this country, and that is far more scary than a incompetent or criminal president, because bureaucracies are immortal.
[User Picture]
Date:April 10th, 2014 04:59 pm (UTC)
Date:April 15th, 2014 12:09 am (UTC)
they only have the control people grant them. and as long as (mostly white) people continue to fear strongly worded letters with no legal or constitutional or social authority behind them, they'll continue to have that control.
Date:April 10th, 2014 11:47 pm (UTC)
Actually, I'm currently rereading Atlas Shrugged, and it's remarkable how closely Barry's following the actions of Wesley Mouch and the rest of the Washington boys from the book.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2014 02:28 pm (UTC)
Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged based on her experiences with the Russian revolutions and the encroachment and fall to socialism there. The techniques are timeless, and that is why you see them again.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2014 02:13 am (UTC)
Fundamentally, the discrepancy is one of the thought process difference between liberals and conservatives.

Conservatives are, in large part, about "principles". "The principle of rule of law", "the principle of equal protection under the law", "The principle of a nation of laws, not a nation of men".

Liberals are, in large part, about "groups". "Minorities", "the 1%", "The jews", "the gays".

To the conservatives, the question when we see things happening is "When this is used by someone I mistrust, what can he do with this tool?". If the answer is scary, we tend to oppose it unless there's a clear and present reason to accept it.

To the liberals, the question is "What group benefits from this?" If the answer is "Minorities", or "the poor", they're for it... And then get blindsided when the same thing they just put in effect has negative results.

I do think that it's a mistake to dismiss the possibility that Obama might try the coup from above you're talking about, And without the senate behind the impeachment, with the scotus being too ponderous to be of use, and Obama having simply ignored their decisions on many occasions (drilling moratorium), etcetera... he might be able to hold power long enough to destroy the notion of the presidency as a temporary office.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2014 09:58 pm (UTC)
appropriately, I have been taking Roman Architecture course at Coursera: a big chunk of lectures refers to Roman history and Flavian dynasty in particular. Suetonius and his 12 Caesars come to mind.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2014 11:41 pm (UTC)
"...if Congress chooses not to act on a legislative issue, that is the choice of Congress, and it is part of what we elected them to do. Inaction is also a choice."

Well stated. I have tried to get this point across, that in a nation of thousands upon thousands of laws and regulations, I PREFER a "do-nothing" Congress. I'd actually prefer a Congress that repealed two laws for every one it passed, but that is not in the nature of the headless leviathan.

I hired my representative to stop the progressive agenda. If that means nothing "gets done" in the next 2 years, then my elected official has succeeded in representing my best interests.

- V -
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2014 02:57 pm (UTC)
"So we are in the Twilight Zone of the Republic, in which we still have an ostensibly democratic electoral process, an ostensibly republican constitution, but the process is increasingly being subverted by direct administrative interference..."

Yes. It's become an uncanny simulacrum of self-government. We look superficially similar to that self-governing entity, we repeat a lot of those same slogans and rhetoric, but the means to steer the ship have slipped away. We are now government by immortal bureaucracy and executive whim. It happened, right before our eyes, but many of us couldn't see it because we were too hypnotized by technical wonders and the grotesque car crash of our popular culture.

I remember when Jonathan Turley (no friend of the Right) testified to Congress back in February about the rise of the "imperial presidency" under Bush and Obama -- and *particularly* under Obama; he made no bones or excuses about that. It was all very good, but I found this quote to be a good summary:

“The fact that I happen to think the president is right on many of these policies does not alter the fact that I believe the means he is doing [it] is wrong, and that this can be a dangerous change in our system. And our system is changing in a very fundamental way. And it’s changing without a whimper of regret or opposition.

So, even certain portions of the Left are beginning to smell what's up. In the early days of totalitarianism, when your "team" is running the show, it can look very tempting to replace the rule of law with the rule of man. Total systems (and especially the socialistic kind with nationalized markets) aren't very efficient to begin with, which is why oil-rich Utopias like Venezuela need to import oil, why they have empty supermarkets, toilet paper shortages and rolling blackouts.

So uniting the separated powers (or subsuming them all under one estate or person) and eliminating the procedural elements of law creation can seem like a good ideas at first - especially if you are frightened, angry, stupid or all of the above. People confuse speed for efficiency all the time, and when you pepper your power grab with soaring, finger-pointing rhetoric about "justice", well... we've heard that song before. That kind of "efficiency" and "justice" murdered many millions in the 20th century.

Turley and his ilk have basically fallen into a Kafka trap of their own design. Academia has conducted a ruthless campaign of purges and witch hunts for going on forty years now, ensuring an ideological lockstep that frames those "policies" Turley agrees with not merely as potential problem-solving strategies, but as the righteous weapons of epistemic truth. The politics of progressives have filled the void left by religion (a dead God makes for a huge, gaping hole), and so for them it's not about rational debate any more. For them, it's become a bizarre retelling of "Star Wars", where a heroic emperor needs to crush all those crazy, bumpkin, tea party rebels so he can bring order to the galaxy, and save everyone from the bother of having to run their own lives.

In other words, this current version of the Zombie Left isn't even sophisticated enough to map to the imaginations of Bradbury, Orwell or Huxley. It's more like kitsch, now. If Turley wanted to prevent all this from happening, he should have started shaming his shameless colleagues and mentors at least twenty-five years ago. But if he did that, he wouldn't have acquired the position of authority he has now, because those same colleagues and mentors wouldn't have allowed him to. In words of one crazy, bumpkin space rebel: "It's a traaaap!" He only has himself to blame, but feeling schadenfreude doesn't solve the problem. I often wonder what might, these days. I sometimes worry it will get very dark before the dawn.

Edited at 2014-04-12 03:07 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2014 06:51 am (UTC)
The final sanction, of course, is extra-Constitutional, but might have the color of Constitutionality if the other two branches of government agreed upon it -- military countercoup-from-below to oppose the coup-from-above that Obama seems to be launching.

A reverse 7 Days In May? That would be greatly entertaining.
Oh, and I just thought of this, sorry:

An Executive Order is meant to apply in two general fields: matters wholly affecting the Executive Branch, and emergency decisions.

That was the case previous to Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952). Due to the decision of that case, Executive Orders fall into one of three categories, quoted here:

(1) Those issued pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress. Here the president’s authority is at its maximum. The EO is invalid only if the federal government as a whole lacks authority to do what the EO does.

(2) Those based upon undefined powers that lay in a "zone of twilight" where the President acts solely on the basis of his independent power and Congress has not spoken. Congressional inactivity or indifference may sometimes enable measures on independent presidential responsibility. In this area, the validity of the EO depends on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.

(3) Those incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, and thus rely solely upon his constitutional authority. Here presidential EO power is at its lowest, and must be scrutinized with caution before being taken, because the EO is only constitutional if a court can disable the Congress from acting on the subject.

I've bolded the part that Obama's legal team would rely on if the constitutionality of his EOs were challenged. I would be interested in seeing the legal fight on that.

Edited at 2014-04-22 07:01 am (UTC)
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