One of the largest landslide elections in the history of the United States took place one year ago today. Free-market Republicans, riding a wave of public anger at bailouts, stimulus, and big-government programs, swept into power, capturing 63 seats and control of the U.S. House of Representatives, not to mention six U.S. Senate seats and over 675 state-legislative seats all over the country — with control of 21 state legislative chambers shifting to GOP hands. It was a truly historic landslide that the American people rightly expected would put an end to the Obama agenda that had been fundamentally transforming America before our eyes. Politicians and pundits alike looked on in awe. But one man was unconvinced: Barack Obama.
The day after the election, Obama held a press conference to spin the meaning of the historic landslide. He explained: “I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years.”
Obama’s message: He would push forward undaunted, stretching the limits of federal power into every aspect of our private and commercial lives. Only now, having lost Congress, he would do so by sidestepping Congress and stretching executive authority beyond all limits. Ironically, Obama had been a frequent critic of Bush’s abuses of executive power on the 2008 campaign trail.
Consider, from that same day-after press conference, how Obama answered a question about what would happen to cap-and-trade, his signature plan to bankrupt the coal industry and make energy prices skyrocket. This was the day after dozens of House Democrats had been defeated largely because of their support for the bill, which died without even being considered in the Senate. Obama said: “Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.”
Indeed, the EPA has moved forward with a multifaceted regulatory onslaught to accomplish the ends of cap-and-trade by different means. While some of that onslaught has slowed down to dissipate the political consequences of such economically painful policies, several regulations are poised to move forward imminently with devastating effects on energy prices and American competitiveness.
Many other alphabet-soup federal bureaucracies have gotten into the act as well, with the union agenda notoriously moving forward at the NLRB and the FCC poised — unless the Senate can step in and stop them — to begin regulating broadband Internet access later this month for the first time in a decade.
Worst of all, Obama spent much of the past week not using the anniversary of his electoral shellacking to reflect on what the American people actually want, but to push even farther in the direction of larger, more intrusive government.
He announced that he would move forward on the bailout-and-stimulus policies of his failed jobs bill despite the fact that it was rejected even by the Democrat-controlled Senate — and even though the U.S. Constitution is crystal clear that Congress possesses the power of the purse.
His latest mortgage bailout — not dissimilar from the one that inspired the Rick Santelli rant and sparked the tea-party movement — will cost taxpayers at least $600 million and punish bond-market investors. His latest student-loan bailout will provide minimal, largely symbolic relief as an apparent reward to the Occupy Wall Street protest crowd — also at taxpayer expense. Both do violence to our Constitution and to democratic principles.
Obama says: “We can no longer wait for Congress to do its job. . . . So where Congress won’t act, I will.” Obama’s strategy is premised on the assertion that the American people want more government programs, more bailouts, and more stimulus spending — the opposite of what the historic 2010 landslide actually indicated. But stopping Obama’s reckless big-government schemes is precisely what the American people elected this current Congress to do.
It is Obama who insists on disregarding the will of the American people — and the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution — in his effort to keep shoving the country hard to the left. If he persists, 2012 may be an even bigger landslide than 2010 was.
— Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity and author of Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America — and How to Stop Him, available at www.DemocracyDenied.org.