How old am I? I’m old enough to remember the shrieking hysteria on the Left over George Bush’s “unitary executive” philosophy, which largely pertained to wartime authority over military matters — such as Gitmo, military commissions for detainees, and other issues of authority over the war on terror. Ever since 2009, though, the rapid expansion of governance-by-decree by Barack Obama into all areas of domestic policy has generated an unsurprising silence on the Left as the executive branch has shifted from a unitary executive to a unilateral executive. Even rebukes by courts over issues such as recess appointments and arrogation of jurisdiction by agencies such as the EPA have barely raised a peep.
Now Hillary Clinton promises an even more aggressive policy of rule by decree, and Vox’ Jonathan Allen reports that the Left is lapping it up:
Hillary Clinton knows what Democrats want from their next president: someone who uses the bulked-up power of the presidency to drive a progressive agenda.
From closing the gun show loophole to tightening the “Volcker Rule” to cut down on risky speculative investing, Clinton is crafting plans to go it alone in major policy areas. That’s importantbecause in an era in which Congress can’t function — particularly when power is closely divided between the parties — the executive actions a president takes unilaterally are among the most consequential policies enacted.
Sure, there are some Democrats who chew their nails when thinking about Clinton’s Machiavellian side, but most are nonetheless glad to see signs that she’s not going to get rolled by a Republican Congress. The scope of what she’s promising to do by herself is unprecedented from a top candidate for the presidency.
The view from inside the campaign, said one official, is that it’s important to be specific about how Clinton would use the unilateral powers of the presidency “because of the level of frustration” Democrats have felt when Obama’s priorities have been blocked by Republicans in Congress. Even if Democrats are able to elect one of their own as president in 2016, he or she is all but assured of facing a Congress in which one or two of the chambers are controlled by Republicans.
That’s why Clinton is focusing so much time and energy on laying out both where she would try to work with Congress and how she would go around lawmakers when necessary. And it’s why Democratic insiders and liberal constituencies are so eager to hear about candidates’ plans for using executive power.
Allen calls Hillary’s executive-authority agenda “unprecedented.” In the Age of Obama, that’s really saying something … something frightening for a system of representative democracy and co-equal branches of government. It also speaks to Hillary Clinton’s own instincts, revealed in the scandal over the secret e-mail server, the use of which was obviously to keep Congress and the courts from exercising any oversight over her use of power.
After losing two midterm elections, and watching Democrats fade into near-irrelevance at the state legislative level over the past five years, one might think that the Left would stop and consider whether their agenda actually speaks to most Americans. Instead, they’re trying to figure out ways to shove it down the throats of voters. Perhaps it’s that quality that has disenchanted voters with Democrats, ever since they employed the same basic attitude when using parliamentary shenanigans to pass ObamaCare in early 2010, which became the inflection point of their decline.
At least now this makes clear what the endgame of progressivism actually is. Perhaps the electorate which has tossed Democrats out of legislatures across the country will wake up to that in 2016 at the national level, assuming Republicans can effectively highlight this danger as a consequential outcome of the presidential election.
Update: Even the Obama administration hesitated to go as far as Hillary proposed on gun control, Greg Sargent wrote on Wednesday:
When Hillary Clinton rolled out a series of new gun control proposals this week, one of the most newsworthy and controversial ideas she put forth was a vow to use executive action as president to fix the background check system if Congress refused to act.
But the Obama administration has already taken a long, internal look at the same executive-action proposal Clinton has promised to undertake, and has doubts over whether it can be made to work in practical terms, according to current and former senior administration officials.
The administration is still looking at this idea, in the wake of Obama’sannouncement after the Oregon shooting that he has directed officials to “scrub” current laws for further actions the executive branch can take against gun violence, those officials say.
But the administration studied the same proposal in 2013 after the Newtown shooting, in the run-up to its release of a number of other executive actions on guns, and decided against including this particular idea out of concerns about its workability, the officials confirm.
Why worry about practicality and legality when we need to politicize?