Obama allies at home incessantly pointed to poll numbers as a justification for his executive abuse, mostly because the only polls that really mattered, congressional elections, continued to soundly reject his agenda. The defense rested on the idea that the Republican-led Congress had failed to “do its job” and act on issues Democrats had deemed vital. But Congress, of course, “acted” all the time by checking the president’s ambitions. This was not only well within its purview, but in many ways the reason the electorate handed the GOP Congress in the first place.
Even if you substantively supported Obama’s actions — as I do on legalizing the children of illegal immigrants, for instance — the reasoning that girded these supposedly temporary executive decisions was soon revealed to be abusive. In 2012, Obama told the nation that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which by any standard was a stand-in for legislation, was merely “a temporary stopgap measure.” By the time Trump overturned it, the measure represented “who we are as a people.” That’s because by “temporary” Obama always meant “until Democrats can make it permanent through the courts or electoral victories.”
Even when implementing laws Congress could pass, Obama and his allies relied on coercing participation through mandates. But when it became inconvenient, they began arbitrarily implementing parts laws. Administrative discretion became administrative abuse. When the president decided the Obamacare’s employment mandate was politically inconvenient, for example, he simply skipped it for expediency.