Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The liberal authoritarian impulse

Just as Obama seems to like to daydream about being to impose his will on the nation without that pesky Congress out there checking the power of the president, he and his aides get irritated that the networks didn't turn over prime time over to him for yet another speech without letting John Boehner tag along with his own speech.

Note this authoritarian impulse in liberalism that wants to impose their will without going through elected officials. They want to use the NLRB to impose new understandings of labor relations. They want to use the courts to find new rights that they like and shut down rights they don't like such as political advertising. They want to lodge as much power as possible in the federal government in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and as far from the influence of the electorate as possible. You get Thomas Friedman expressing his envy for the Chinese government's ability to impose their will on environmental issues. Gosh knows, the Obama administration is trying to do all that it can through EPA regulations. And they created all sorts of new powers to be vested in the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine how Obamacare shall be implemented.

Conservatism often carries the rap of being the more authoritarian ideology as dictators are often classified as being right-wing. But that is a simplistic approach that lumps all sorts of disparate rulers and thinkers together. If we were going to quibble about these historical analogies, we'd note the authoritarianism in the French Revolution and the Soviet system. Just because power is imposed in the name of the good of the people, it doesn't make it less authoritarian.

Fortunately, that is not the government we have. Our founders believed in a limited government even if that is not what the liberals seek today. They seem to believe that the power of the government is limitless. And dang, it's so annoying when people go to rallies to protest all the good that they want to do or Republicans in Congress refuse to roll over before the Democrats' unquestioned goodness.

George Will's column this week is excellent on Obama's self-idolizing tendency to forget that Congress is a co-equal branch of government.
At his Friday news conference-cum-tantrum, Barack Obama imperiously summoned congressional leaders to his presence: "I've told" them "I want them here at 11 a.m."
The phrasing is revealing, isn't it?
nordinate self-regard is an occupational hazard of politics and part of the job description of the rhetorical presidency, this incessant tutor. Still, upon what meat doth this our current Caesar feed that he has grown so great that he presumes to command leaders of a coequal branch of government?

He once boasted (June 3, 2008) that he could influence the oceans' rise; he must be disabused of comparable delusions about controlling Congress. When he was a lecturer on constitutional law, he evidently skipped the separation of powers doctrine.

But, then, because this doctrine impedes the progressives' goal of unleashing untrammeled government, they have long loathed it: Woodrow Wilson, the first president to criticize the American founding, considered the separation of powers the Constitution's "radical defect."

It has, however, rescued the nation from Obama's preference for a "clean" debt-ceiling increase that would ignore the onrushing debt tsunami. There are 87 reasons for Obama's temporary conversion of convenience to the cause of spending restraint — the 87 House Republican freshmen.

Their inflexibility astonishes and scandalizes Washington because it reflects the rarity of serene fidelity to campaign promises. Obama — a demagogue for an age of smooth surfaces; Huey Long with a better tailor — pretended Friday to wonder whether Republicans "can say yes to anything." Well.

House Republicans said yes to "cut, cap and balance." Senate Democrats, who have not produced a budget in more than 800 days, vowed to work all weekend debating this. But Friday they voted to table it, thereby ducking a straightforward vote on the only debt-reduction plan on paper, the only plan debated, the only plan to receive Democratic votes.

Obama's last venture into public specificity was his February budget, which proposed accelerating the nation's descent into debt. It was rejected by the Senate 97-0.
Will continues on to give more examples of what he rightly calls the President's mendacity. That's one benefit of our system of checks and balances. Obama's political opponents don't have to buy into his deceptions just because the media is too lazy to point out where he's not being honest.