Because Barack Obama saw himself and his presidency as post-Constitutional, he did not govern in co-equal partnership with Congress but chose instead to reign with pen and phone. For Obama, Congress—even when controlled by Democrats—was a nuisance and an impediment. He was always impatient with constitutional forms so he ignored them, relying instead upon executive orders, unconstitutional power grabs by the administrative state, and a pliable judiciary.
Obama’s tenure, especially after the 2010 Tea Party election, has been characterized by high profile and highly questionable executive actions that run counter to the expressed will of the people through their representatives in Congress. Among these were the infamous Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) order that undermined existing immigration law and the unconstitutional Iran deal which Obama refused to submit to the Senate because it only had 34 votes not the two-thirds required for a treaty. Not even all Senate Democrats supported the Iran deal so, without congressional approval Obama agreed to send $150 billion of taxpayer money to Iran—the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism—and to accept their word that they won’t pursue a nuclear weapons program. Not only is this a blatantly unconstitutional power grab that undermines national security, it amounts to paying Iran to lie to us.
But because Obama acted so often without Congress, at the stroke of the new president’s pen it can all be undone. This is the Achilles heel of the Left’s post-constitutional will to power politics: it only works when you’re winning. When an election goes against you everything you have accomplished by force of will can be overturned by your successor. If you don’t pass a law through Congress, your successor doesn’t need to go to Congress to reverse it. More important, the reason Obama didn’t go to Congress to enact his agenda is because the American people, while personally attached to him, did not support it. As a result there will be not so much an outcry as relief when he is reversed—which brings us to this year’s election.