In a Wall Street Journal op-ed everyone should read, Senator Ted Cruz takes aim at President Obama’s cavalier approach to the Constitution and the federal laws duly enacted in accordance with it. No president has ever more openly mocked the Constitution’s explicit charge that the president “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Forget pure law-enforcement issues such as the immigration law, where the president has transformed the systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion into a major policy of his administration. The president has suspended the collection of statutory tax obligations, such as the employer mandate in Obamacare. That means any president could come along and proclaim the end of double-taxation by suspending corporate and estate taxes. The point every Obama supporter should answer comes toward the end of Senator Cruz’s op-ed:
But this should not be a partisan issue. In time, the country will have another president from another party. For all those who are silent now: What would they think of a Republican president who announced that he was going to ignore the law, or unilaterally change the law? Imagine a future president setting aside environmental laws, or tax laws, or labor laws, or tort laws with which he or she disagreed.
Progressives should think about that long and hard. Conservatives have much more to gain from the wholesale suspension of federal law than progressives do. The entire progressive agenda going back to the 1930s rests on federal laws of dubious constitutionality. Conservatives routinely rail against Wickard v. Filburn (1942), the Supreme Court case that dropped virtually all constitutional limits on the federal commerce power. Reversing that case would repeal most of the federal government as we know it today. But now we know that we don’t need to wait on the glacial evolution in the Supreme Court’s doctrine. If the next Republican president is willing to take advantage of the Obama precedent, he can arbitrarily repeal virtually the entire progressive edifice with a simple decree. Wouldn’t that be great?
No, it wouldn’t. That would be dictatorship. The power to say what the law is not is the same as the power to say what the law is, and under our Constitution the president doesn’t have that power.
However unwittingly, Obama has laid the foundations for presidential dictatorship. Progressives will rue the day. We all will. In politics as in war, few weapons go unused by both sides for very long.