During an appearance on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show Wednesday night, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (R-TX) emphasized that President Obama’s impending executive orders on amnesty represent a threat to the Constitutional order, as well as imposing a policy the American people clearly do not want.  “This last election was a referendum on amnesty, and the American people overwhelmingly rose up and said, ‘No, we don’t want lawless amnesty,'” Cruz declared.  “And I’m sorry to say, President Obama’s reaction is defiant, and it is angry with the American people.  And if the President goes forward with this – if he goes forward unilaterally defying the Congress elected by the people, defying the American voters – then it’s incumbent on Republicans in Congress to use every single Constitutional tool we have to defend the rule of law, to rein in the President so that the President does not become an unaccountable monarch, imposing his own policies in defiance of the American people.  This is a moment of testing, and I am hopeful we will see Republicans in Congress stand up and side with the people against a lawless President.”

To emphasize this point further, Cruz hopped behind the wheel of a 2,000-year-old Cicero speech on Thursday, tricked it out with all the modern state-of-the-art topical accessories, and burned donuts around the Senate podium.  Don’t try this at home, kids:

It remains to be seen how many Republicans Cruz can rally to his cause – he wants to defund Obama’s amnesty orders, and shoot down every nominee he sends to the Senate, save for those essential to national security, but there has already been some foot-shuffling and mumbled surrender from his colleagues.  The conventional wisdom about Republicans always losing budget fights hangs gloomy over Washington.

It would be a shame if Republicans choose this moment to let America down, because we need them, for exactly the reasons Cruz lays out.  Our system itself, the very rule of law, is under attack.  The reasons why are transparent, ranging from long-term plans to restructure the American electorate to suit the Left’s tastes, through Obama’s petulant anger at the American people for repudiating him and his ideology.  The beneficiaries of this particular abuse of power are a relatively small group of people who aren’t even American citizens.  It’s unfashionably harsh to put it that way, but it’s the truth.  They didn’t accidentally drift over the border and find themselves trapped in the United States, as the rhetoric of illegal immigration activists so often suggests.  They made a willful decision to ignore our laws, and now Obama presses their claims against us, in defiance of our Constitution.  There was a legal means available for immigration, just as there is a legal method for granting amnesty to five million illegal aliens, or opening our borders to anyone who cares to cross them.  In both cases, the legal method was disdained because it was inconvenient.

But what else is the law, if not an inconvenience against the will to power?  If obeying the law required no effort or hardship, we would scarcely need to write it down, let alone empower a vast system of police, courts, and bureaucrats to enforce it.  Almost by definition, the right way to do something isn’t the easiest or fastest way.  Border violators had many reasons for entering the country illegally, often reasons that anyone could sympathize with; naturally, the most sympathetic among them are held up as examples for the entire body of illegal aliens.  But the courts are filled with people who have logical, even sympathetic, reasons for their offenses.  Parents who commit any number of crimes are separated from their families.  Immigration law is treated differently because it has been subdued by special-interest politics, and some of those interests are not actually citizens of the government they seek to influence.  That’s important for a host of reasons, but no matter who deals the cards, it’s always wrong for politics to trump the law, rather than doing the hard work of honorably changing it.

Cruz referring to this as a “moment of testing” reminded me of Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” address, and since Obama apologists have slandered Reagan so energetically over the past few days by falsely claiming he did the same thing Obama is about to do, I feel like the Gipper is already part of this discussion.  Let’s hear what he had to say about arrogant elites claiming the power to re-organize our lives:

Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, “We don’t know how lucky we are.” And the Cuban stopped and said, “How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to.” And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.

And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.

This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the “Great Society,” or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity in the affairs of the people. But they’ve been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves; and all of the things I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say, “The cold war will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism.” Another voice says, “The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state.” Or, “Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century.” Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as “our moral teacher and our leader,” and he says he is “hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document.” He must “be freed,” so that he “can do for us” what he knows “is best.” And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as “meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government.”

Well, I, for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as “the masses.” This is a term we haven’t applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, “the full power of centralized government”—this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Which makes it both immoral and illogical to see the private sector regulated far more harshly than the government itself.  “The government can’t be regulated!” a leftist might chuckle.  “They’re the regulators!”  But that’s exactly why the must be bound by the most stringent laws, and compelled to do their duty.  We may reliably assume that any power seized by the State will be used to expand the power of the State.  It has a fondness for using its power to manufacture crises it can exploit later for even more power, presenting itself as the solution to every problem it has caused.  Amnesty is one example of that – we’re only having this discussion now because the government was derelict in its duty to enforce our immigration laws for decades.  ObamaCare is another, as you’ll learn beyond dispute when even more government power over medicine is advocated as the only way to arrest its collapse… and we only got saddled with ObamaCare due to government distortions of the insurance marketplace in the years preceding its unlovely passage.  As long as you consent to give the State the power to dig holes it can demand ever more power to fill, it will never stop digging.

It will also redefine “success” on the fly, to justify all of its failures by saying it needs more power and money.  Never mind what the original promises were – they become dust in the wind as soon as the ink dries on legislation.  The elites grow visibly angry when they are reminded of their original commitments, their rosy projections and fanciful timetables.  Reagan had them nailed on that, too:

Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we’re told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than 3,000 dollars a year. Welfare spending [is] 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We’re spending 45 billion dollars on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you’ll find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally among those 9 million poor families, we’d be able to give each family 4,600 dollars a year. And this added to their present income should eliminate poverty. Direct aid to the poor, however, is only running only about 600 dollars per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead.

Now—so now we declare “war on poverty,” or “You, too, can be a Bobby Baker.” Now do they honestly expect us to believe that if we add 1 billion dollars to the 45 billion we’re spending, one more program to the 30-odd we have—and remember, this new program doesn’t replace any, it just duplicates existing programs—do they believe that poverty is suddenly going to disappear by magic? Well, in all fairness I should explain there is one part of the new program that isn’t duplicated. This is the youth feature. We’re now going to solve the dropout problem, juvenile delinquency, by reinstituting something like the old CCC camps [Civilian Conservation Corps], and we’re going to put our young people in these camps. But again we do some arithmetic, and we find that we’re going to spend each year just on room and board for each young person we help 4,700 dollars a year. We can send them to Harvard for 2,700! Course, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency.

But seriously, what are we doing to those we seek to help? Not too long ago, a judge called me here in Los Angeles. He told me of a young woman who’d come before him for a divorce. She had six children, was pregnant with her seventh. Under his questioning, she revealed her husband was a laborer earning 250 dollars a month. She wanted a divorce to get an 80 dollar raise. She’s eligible for 330 dollars a month in the Aid to Dependent Children Program. She got the idea from two women in her neighborhood who’d already done that very thing.

Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always “against” things—we’re never “for” anything.

Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

That’s one of his most famous quotes, but if I might propose an addendum: they know it isn’t so, but the exercise of power involves bending reality to meet ideology.  How in the world can anyone, in good conscience, propose amnesty for illegal aliens when we have the lessons of history – not just from Reagan’s day, but from last year – to show us what will inevitably happen as a result?  Only the most utter fool would believe this amnesty deal will end with the five million lottery winners Obama announces on Spanish-language television tomorrow night.  More will come through chain migration, and more beyond that in search of their own amnesty deals.  They will correctly assume that America’s Ruling Class has no interest in keeping them out, beyond a minimal pretense of border security for the news cameras.  Physically locking down the border is only part of the key to controlling immigration anyway – it doesn’t mean much if everyone who pays off smugglers, endures an unpleasant desert crossing, and slips past the thin green-uniformed line becomes the winner of a twisted little game.  That’s exactly what Obama’s amnesty agenda makes of our immigration laws: a game.  It’s really disrespectful towards the players, as well as the American citizens who demand government fidelity to sane, lawful policy.

This is our time for testing, a moment when the American people will be challenged to stand up and defend the system that is being destroyed before their eyes (well, assuming you watch Univision or Telemundo) and assert the value of citizenship, which includes both benefits and responsibilities.  What respect is Obama’s preferred constituency supposed to develop for the rule of law, when their very first experience with American law involves using special-interest politics to erase it?

Will you let yourself be browbeaten or intimidated away from your loyal defense of the system you inherited – not just in the matter of citizenship laws, but the Constitutional separation of power Obama has declared war upon?  Will you accept the new paradigm of benevolent despotism, with one option every four years to switch out despots?  Every year we get a smear of polls that say people don’t like Congress (at least, everyone other than their own representative.)  You don’t have to like Congress to defend its prerogatives.  In fact, it’s the healthiest thing in the world to defend it while disliking it as a body.  It is necessary because it represents the voice of the people.  Of course it’s not a unified voice.  We draw our strength from robust disagreement, and we are a large people spread across a vast nation, with naturally conflicting interests.  Our legislature is rowdy by nature, for we are rowdy by nature.  There are many things the government can’t do, because Congress gets into stalemate arguments.  Good.  Those are probably things the government shouldn’t be doing.  If they are good ideas, they can sustain the hard work of persuading enough people to send Congress new instructions through the next election… as they rather obviously just did.  That message is no less valid because it burns the ears of ambitious collectivists and a thin-skinned lame-duck President.

I’ve always said it was incredibly foolish of people to trade the liberty they exercise through countless voluntary decisions every day, for one vote every year or two in shaping the course of a collectivist nation.  How much worse is that deal when Obama and his fellow travelers insist that you should get only one meaningful vote every four years… and there will only be two serious choices on the menu?

The great test of fidelity to the American system was never going to be delivered by some armored dictator banging a mailed fist and ranting about subjugation like a comic-book villain.  It was always destined to come from clean and articulate people with finely-creased pants who claim they’re only seizing power to Move America Forward and Do What’s Best for some sympathetic group that has promised to reward them politically for their attention.  The time for testing would surely involve not thundered demands, but soothing promises about how it’s really not so radical, you’ll hardly miss the the power we’re taking, we’ve got some think-tank studies that say it’ll all work out great, and you must be a racist if you think maintaining the rule of law is more important than helping out these nice people who really need a hand.  The new monarchs would promise to hold their thrones for only a few years, claiming not divine right or regal blood as the source of their authority, but their transcendent ability to perceive and impose the popular will… an ability they would inevitably claim was more finely-tuned than any sloppy old pile of ballots in a poorly-attended election.

Barack Obama thinks the rule of law is a bluff, and he’s calling it.  He sneers at midterm elections, tells his Party that the losses they might endure in 2016 are nothing compared to the long-term gains, and feels confident that every legislative instrument that could stop him has been safely dissolved in the acid of Beltway culture.  What are you going to do, vote against him?  You just did that, and it didn’t make a difference.  He’ll never be anywhere near a ballot again.  Either get behind your elected representatives and demand they play the cards you gave them on Election Day, or fold.  If we’re going to live under despotism now, our only hope of retaining a shred of law or freedom is to admit the fact and look at the new system clearly, so we can see its true outlines.