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Is there not one ethical, courageous Democrat?
The Obama administration’s actions in the recent past have by any measure set new records for cynicism and hypocrisy. Obama the Senator (c. 2006) and Obama the Presidential candidate (c. 2007-2008) repeatedly espoused positions that Obama the President (c. 2009-2012) has not only declined to endorse but dramatically repudiated. Pre-election Obama was going to reset international relations (oops), close Gitmo (oops), shrink the deficit (OMG, OOPS!), and swear off Presidential signing statements (oops, oops, and oops). The best of intentions and all that, right? Since then, Obama has abandoned positions with – well, with abandon.
But the unmitigated gall he showed last week in the brazen, unconstitutional power grab exemplified by the lawless “recess” appointments of three NLRB directors as well as the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau belongs in the chutzpah hall of fame.
I am no longer surprised when this administration does something of which I disapprove, no matter how strongly. But this posting is not about why – or even whether – those were poor decisions. Others at this site (see here, here, and here) and elsewhere have thoroughly and convincingly explained why Obama’s actions were unconstitutional. What does surprise me – indeed, alarms me – is the deafening silence, if not downright approval, from the Democrat side of the aisle in the face of these outrageous actions.
I have yet to see one Democrat in a leadership position – cabinet secretary, Congressman, governor – good Lord, I’d settle for a state legislator by now – publicly repudiate Obama’s choices. I don’t know of any that have left the party, resigned a position of power, or otherwise taken a stand to confront this most anti-democratic of administrations. Not one has said so much as, “Mr. President, I respect your intentions, your heart is in the right place; as a fellow Democrat, I am aligned with your goals; but this cannot stand.”
Now, one could argue that Democrats are only acting in their own self-interest. Obama is a Chicago pol, you might say, and will take his revenge on any who cross him. Power can be taken, committee assignments can be stripped, financial assistance for a re-election campaign can be withheld, primary opponents can be recruited. For a fellow Democrat to express strong, principled opposition to Obama’s malfeasance in office would bring enormous risks, and more likely than not would result in the termination of a political career. Just lay low for a year, you might imagine them saying to themselves; he’ll probably be gone and if I can avoid making waves I’ll survive the tsunami.
But this is small comfort. The Democratic Party represents, give or take, one half of the population of the United States, and has control of one-half or more of the institutions of power of this great country. It is not a fringe party clawing its way to relevance as a spoiler, or a coalition partner, as may be found in many European nations. It is a mainstream party, but it is tacitly approving of actions that are decidedly outside what should be the mainstream in our 236-year-old Constitutional Republic. A certain level of responsibility, of respect for traditions like the Rule of Law, of decorum, is de minimus. Ethics, and the courage to insist upon them, are not situational. Personal integrity cannot be suspended and resumed at will.
The complete absence of anyone in the party willing to challenge this administration, to speak truth to power, is not only unseemly; it is downright unhealthy. If voters fail to hold the Democratic Party accountable for this grievous lapse of judgment (or if the party manages to circumvent the will of the people and cling to power in spite of them – but that’s a topic for another post), then power-seekers will take note that integrity and adherence to ethics are now optional.
In the words of the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Obama’s assault on the Constitution is, if not evil, at the very least pernicious and corrosive. The monolithic silence from the Democratic Party communicates much.
I await a Democrat with the courage to speak out: to demonstrate integrity instead of expediency, and, if it comes to it, to show a willingness to forego a sinecure in the halls of power. Like Diogenes, I am looking – so far, in vain – for an honest man.