Saturday, September 1, 2012

President or King?

Over the last four years it has not been uncommon to hear people ask why it is that President Obama is not more popular. After all, he's genial, witty, boasts a charming smile and a lovely family. What's not to like? The answer offers itself that those who remain unseduced by Mr. Obama's personal charisms surely must disdain him for his skin color. From here it's but a short step to the conclusion that to oppose Mr. Obama is prima facie evidence of racism.

This is, of course, ludicrous, but it's a popular meme in places like MSNBC where it has been frequently alleged that joking about the birther controversy, or Mr. Obama's penchant for golf, or citing his connections to Chicago are all code-speak for racial animosity toward the President. Don't ask how that might be because trying to explain the reasoning behind what's said on MSNBC often has the same damaging effect on one's brain cells as does alcohol.

At any rate, the obvious reason why much of the country is disenchanted with Mr. Obama is that they're very concerned about his policies. His spending has so burdened us with debt that it's probably fair to say that very few of today's young people will enjoy the same standard of living as did their parents and grandparents. His hostility toward business has perpetuated an unfavorable business climate and a high unemployment rate that have lasted longer than any since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But one of the deepest concerns that many Americans have about Mr. Obama is how he views the office of the presidency itself. Increasingly, he appears to be taking on the role of an autocrat rather than a president. Here's what I mean: We live in a democratic republic in which the people govern themselves through their elected representatives. The laws that are promulgated by the legislature ideally reflect the will of the people. When they don't the legislators find themselves out of work, as many of them did in 2010.

A president should respect the people's will. He's there to serve them, not to rule them. He's there to execute the laws enacted by our representatives. Thus, when Mr. Obama takes it upon himself to unilaterally decide which laws he will enforce and which he won't, when he takes it upon himself to change, by fiat, the laws as they were debated and voted upon, he's acting more like a sovereign than a president. We decided early in our history that we would not be ruled by a sovereign, but Mr. Obama doesn't seem to understand that, and this has many Americans very troubled.

In what ways has the president disregarded the will of the people? I'll mention three:
  • He has issued an executive order that substantively alters the welfare reforms of the 1990s.
  • He has decreed that young people in the country illegally will be granted legal immunity.
  • He has essentially waived provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act that he thought too burdensome.

Understand, that the merits of each of these steps are not what is in dispute. They may be good or they may not, but in our system of government if a law should be changed it's to be changed by the people's representatives, not by a president acting as if he were a king. If an administration can simply choose not to enforce laws the president doesn't like then which law is next? And if he can pick and choose which laws to enforce, what's to stop him from deciding that his government will no longer recognize the rights granted in the 1st or 2nd amendments to the Constitution?

At the moment, of course, the president is still subject to the courts, but if he wins a second term and can add one more liberal jurist to the Supreme Court who will, like the four already there, simply rubber-stamp whatever he wants to do, then this country will have become a very different place than it was even ten years ago.

Some might say that this is all baseless paranoia. Maybe so, but perhaps it's the case that those who say that are themselves deluded and naive. In any case, why take the chance? We don't need as president someone who acts as though he sees himself as a benevolent dictator.