You can scarcely turn on the radio or open a story on the web without coming across a Republican complaining loudly about Pres. Obama and his tendency to use executive orders like a battering ram to knock down the walls separating government powers. If Congress won’t pass the laws he wants, Obama just legislates through the bureaucracy.
The GOP is right to protest. But sadly, if one of the Republican candidates should ascend to the White House throne in 2012, he or she will undoubtedly continue the same practice. And we will hear crickets chirping from the right side of the political aisle. After all, the Republican president will wield those executive powers for “good” as opposed to those evil Democrats who only wanted to destroy America. Of course, the Dems will disagree, and caterwauling will replace the silence we’ve now come to expect from the left with “their man” in power.
Lost in all of the political jockeying – principle.
Policy certainly plays vital role in the functioning of our Republic. But to ignore the foundational principles upon which the U.S. rests simply to “get things done” poses a far graver danger than failure to implement this or that policy. By placing pragmatism over principle, we risk collapsing our entire constitutional structure.
On Sept. 17, 1796, George Washington delivered his farewell address. He offers a warning we’d do well to consider today.
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.