This week, Senate majority leader Charles Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that it may be “a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency.”
In other words, the leader of what is allegedly the world’s greatest deliberative lawmaking body — tasked with, among many other things, checking the power of the executive branch — is advocating that his ideological ally bypass Congress, declare a perpetual emergency that affects the entire economy, and rule by fiat.
Of course, anyone who believed Democrats were attempting to preserve “norms” or strengthen institutions, or that they were genuinely upset by the overreaches of Donald Trump rather than frustrated that they weren’t the ones wielding power, was just a sap.
In the Maddow interview, Schumer reasons that Trump had used the emergency powers “for a stupid wall, which wasn’t an emergency.” Indeed, I opposed Trump’s funding sections of the border wall. Yet securing the border — Schumer, incidentally, voted in favor of a barrier when it was politically expedient — is a tangible project, with a beginning and end, and a clear purpose. Schumer wants to activate special executive powers to fight a nebulous all-encompassing future “emergency” that entails control of entire sectors of the economy, all the while erasing the legislative choices of states and economic choices of individuals.
Practically speaking, the micromanaging of the economy under the diktats of a progressive “climate emergency” would be far closer to the definition of fascism than the ones casually thrown around by contemporary liberals. When Trump was president, The Atlantic summed up the legitimately scary reach of national emergency powers:
The premise underlying emergency powers is simple: The government’s ordinary powers might be insufficient in a crisis, and amending the law to provide greater ones might be too slow and cumbersome. Emergency powers are meant to give the government a temporary boost until the emergency passes or there is time to change the law through normal legislative processes.
What emergency powers are not meant to do is give the executive branch a permanent boost because it can’t convince enough legislators to adopt its preferred policies.
When Trump appropriated funding for his wall, Schumer called it “an outrageous power grab by a president who refuses to accept the constitutional separation of powers,” and argued that the only recourse was “to terminate the emergency declaration and reassert our constitutional authority.”
So reassigning federal funding for a border project is an attack on the constitutional separation of powers, but empowering the executive branch to create new policies to stop a slight variation of the Earth’s climate, treated as an existential threat, is not?
Schumer’s whataboutism would be more convincing if he, and the Obama administration, hadn’t rationalized a string of executive abuses with similarly rickety reasoning. Obama had habitually ignored the legislative process because, argued Democrats, their colleagues simply refused to do their jobs — by which they meant pass legislation that placated the president. And the more seats Democrats lost, the more executive actions Obama took. So much for our sacred democratic institutions.
Joe Biden, perhaps the most pliable politician in American history, may well declare such an emergency. Or try. Presidents Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush signed four executive orders on their first day at work, combined. Biden signed 17. And he kept going.
It’s true that tallying up gross numbers of executive orders only tells us so much. But Biden wasn’t dedicating federal buildings; he was signing orders to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that granted amnesty to millions without any legislation. Even Obama argued that it was only a “temporary stopgap measure.” Biden then rejoined the Paris climate accords, an international agreement that hands the nation’s energy-policy goals to Europe and China without going to the Senate for approval.
These actions occasioned no tearing of garments by Schumer or the press about the end of democracy. “Biden’s climate change plan is all about jobs and justice,” explained one Washington Post “analyst.” There is nothing Democrats could do on climate front, no power grab too big, that wouldn’t be cheered on.
A “climate emergency” is the culmination of decades of scaremongering. Every year, and with every flood or drought or hurricane or rain shower, the Left ratchets up the doomsday scenarios. Media outlets like CNN propagandize by adopting meaningless and completely unscientific phrases such as “climate crisis.”
If there were truly a planet-threatening climate crisis, Democrats would not simply call for the long-term elimination of fossil fuels, but would also embrace a massive nuclear-energy program, as that is the only feasible alternative. The story of mankind is one of acclimatization. We use technological advances and efficiencies to deal with change. It’s one thing to make a market push to adopt other sources of energy. But there is no emergency. By every quantifiable measure of human existence, in fact, we are better off today because of affordable and reliable fossil fuels.
We can disagree on this issue. But it’s up to voters, legislatures, and individuals to decide whether they want to dismantle modernity, not Joe Biden.
The story of mankind is also replete with stories of those in power using sham emergencies to grab more control over citizens. To some extent, both parties have abdicated their responsibilities, handing power to the executive branch. But Schumer, who not only advocates a “climate emergency” declaration, but is open to destroying the Senate’s counter-majoritarian procedural norms by eliminating the legislative filibuster and corrupting the judiciary with a partisan Court-packing scheme, is a uniquely damaging opponent of the constitutional order.