In 1787, fifty-six Americans assembled in Philadelphia to draft the United States Constitution to “form a more perfect union.” Along the way they studied and debated a form of government where citizens were the sovereigns. It was as many, including Obama, have said a system of “don’ts” rather than “do’s.” The one thing they feared was a powerful executive which is why there are so many “don’ts.”
There was once upon a time a guiding principle for conservatism- adherence to the United States Constitution. But conservatism lost its way. The compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush which included profligate spending by a free-for-all Congress as an accomplice created a backlash in 2010. People would ask me: “Are you Tea Party?” I had a stock answer: “If adhering to the Constitution is Tea Party, then yes- I guess I am Tea Party.” It was the Tea Party and people who rode its coat tails- people like Rubio, Paul, Lee and Cruz- who refocused the role of constitutional government. No longer was it as question of “you shouldn’t;” it was a question of “you couldn’t.” The Tea Party was simply echoing the sentiments of those 56 delegates in Philadelphia in 1787- a commitment to a limited and constrained federal government.
However, instead of the Constitution being a guiding principle, it became a blunt instrument against Obama with negative results. Sometimes it was the Supreme Court as evidenced by the Obamacare decision where Roberts basically ignored his opening line- it was unconstitutional if decided under the Commerce Clause- to uphold the law. The Court also inflicted gay marriage on the Nation in a decision worthy of a college poetry journal rather than the highest court in the land. But equally unfortunate was/is a Republican and supposedly conservative Congress unwilling to challenge and check the Executive branch. Instead, it sits idly by paralyzed by inaction out of fear of political backlash. That translates into an abrogation of its Constitutional duties.
While we can certainly make a case about Congress’ weakness, what makes it even more egregious is the weakness of Obama himself. This is a person so devoid of leadership ability that he has to revert to the kick-yourself-in-the-butt tantrum of, “Fine- I’ll do it myself!” In Obama’s world, there is no Congress and there is no Constitution. Thus, why go to Congress when you can rewrite immigration, environmental, commercial and gun laws with a stroke of the pen knowing that Congress will just sit by, protest, then do nothing?
Which leads to 2016 and the Trump phenomena. What makes anyone believe or think that a President Trump would be any different than a President Obama as concerns executive power? In Trump’s world- like Obama’s- there is no need for Congress or the Constitution because he will take care of everything along with his imaginary team of experts. One need only look at his policy proposals which stress himself. He will deport the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States. He will close mosques and make sure Muslims are registered. He will order the killing of the families of terrorists.
And if you disagree with this mindset, then you are a “loser” or you are “weak” and you certainly stand in the way of Trump’s plan to “make America great again.” Is it any wonder that he views Vladimir Putin as a great leader beloved by his people? Many of his proposals are strikingly similar to actions Putin would take. That is because Trump, like Putin and Obama, has little regard for constitutional government. To them, it is a quaint inconvenience.
Pundits claim that Trump is tapping into an anger among the electorate. In reality, Trump is taking advantage of Obama’s weakness as a leader. Obama clearly has contempt for his “enemies-” anyone who disagrees with him, and an even greater contempt for any effort to thwart his executive powers. But, is Donald Trump any different? His rhetoric, if it came to fruition, would be Obama’s transgressions on steroids. And just as the progressive Left winks and nods and cheers on Obama’s actions, Trump’s supporters do the same- cheering on his “repay in kind” rhetoric. A cheering Trump supporter is no different than an Obama supporter in this regard. Further, his rhetoric is not that different than that of Bernie Sanders, the comparable firebrand on the Left. Instead of turning his vitriol on Wall Street banks and billionaire donors, Trump turns his vitriol on other alleged bogeymen. It is populism plain and simple.
In fact, Trump is the most anti-Tea Party and anti-constitutional candidate in this campaign. His brand of populism advocates ripping conservatism from its ideological roots- an adherence to the Constitution. By design, populism is in conflict with constitutional government. The Constitution frustrates populism through little inconveniences like checks and balances, the separation of powers, federalism and the rule of law. That is the reason your average run-of-the-mill populist has little regard for the Constitution and Trump is no different.
Like Obama before him, a President Trump would run roughshod over the United States Constitution. It is not only conservatism that suffers, but constitutional government itself and ultimately the United States. We need leaders who respect the rule of law and constitutional principles, not ones who consider it once or twice in their lifetime when they recite an Oath of Office. We do not need leaders who will take a dump on what they perceive as a parchment of paper written over 200 years ago. That piece of paper is what made the United States great. It is time we pay attention to those “cannots” rather than “should nots.”