Ohio governor John Kasich says that his decision to go around the state legislature to expand Medicaid was nothing like President Obama’s abuse of executive authority. He was implementing the will of the legislature, he says, which was not to have to vote on the issue. They wanted the expansion to go through, but did not want to have to face a primary having voted that way. And the controlling board that ultimately made the decision, he went on to explain, is a democratic institution.
That last point is self-refuting: On Kasich’s own account, the point of this arrangement was to prevent accountability to primary voters by making legislative responsibility indirect. And that’s the basic problem with his answer, even if it turns out that he’s entirely right about what legislators were thinking (which I doubt). We shouldn’t care about presidential unilateralism because it offends the self-regard of legislators. We should care about it because it undermines our system of divided, checked, and accountable power. It doesn’t become better if the legislators agree to it because they would rather evade political accountability. For Kasich to say that as president he would unilaterally set policy only after consulting with legislators in this fashion should be the opposite of reassuring.
Update: As I suspected, Kasich’s account of what the legislature wanted is highly misleading. Jason Hart has the details.