Monday, August 22, 2011


Over the last few months, we have been hearing the term “dysfunctional Congress” used more and more.  The popular understanding is that Congressional actions are ineffective and inappropriate.
Our culture lets us know that Congress is a real problem.  It is gumming up the works when there is a need for progress.  Our President is portrayed as trying to do the right thing, but is hindered in his executive duties when he has to work with the Congress.

Against this backdrop, we have seen calls for invoking the 14th amendment to reconcile the country’s debt ceiling, ignoring the War Powers Resolution with our military actions in Libya, and stopping the deportation of illegal immigrants when they appear to pose no threat to public safety or national security. 

What’s interesting about all this?

It has to do with political power.  George Will, in a column last week, stated that “the first rule regarding political power [is] – ‘use it or lose it.’”  That’s worth thinking about.

Americans traditionally relegate political power to a defined time and place.  We fight our political battles vigorously in the events that lead up to an election, but then reconcile our views and get down to the business of running the country.

That traditional representation of politics is no longer true.

Nowadays, the work of extending and strengthening political power is carried on well after the election is over.  The winning political party uses its incumbency to increase its power and authority, with the administration of the country taking a secondary role.

There is an obvious downside: Political campaigning never stops, and every governmental action has a political angle.

For an example, look at the debate on the size of government.  Republicans like to characterize the Democratic Party as “The Party of Big Government.”  But do Democrats consistently exhibit that characteristic?

A few years back, when Republicans held the executive branch of government, Barack Obama (as a Senator) advocated against raising the debt ceiling.  Now that he is in charge of the executive branch, he advocates for raising the debt ceiling.

What changed?  The issue is not the intrinsic size of government.  It is who controls that government.  When Democrats are in power, they want the government more powerful.  When they are not in control, they tend to favor restrictions on governmental power.

Another example is the illegal alien controversy.  The issue is not the intrinsic rights of our non-citizens to entitlements of health care and education.  It is whether or not an associated political group will promote the power of the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party supports the “rights” of non-citizens as long as there is an expectation that their sympathetic groups will favor Democrats.  The veiled threat (Chicagoland!) is that if that support is not forthcoming, the concessions will stop.  That same message is present in the exemptions granted for the health care legislation:  Individual concessions will be removed if the support of the Democratic Party is not maintained.

The guiding principle is always the power and authority of the Democratic Party.  The principles associated with the overall size of government, separation of powers between the branches, and favoritism for demographic groups are all relative.  These positions - “principles” - are held only so long as they promote the power and authority of the Democratic Party.

The 2012 election is shaping up to be a defining event.  We have two very dedicated groups of people who have a lot on the line.  Our culture favors the group that is dedicated to increasing the power and authority of the Democratic Party.  Those on the other side, who favor Constitutional principles (The Rule of Law; Separation of Branches of Government; Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness), are portrayed as being “dysfunctional.”

It is actually quite a bit worse than that.  These “dysfunctional Americans” are scorned as “Tea Baggers,” and are characterized as killers, liars, terrorists and racists.

This is NOT a good time to succumb to intimidation. Our Constitution is imploring us to not let the principles of America’s founding fathers be abandoned.  We need to shake off that intimidation and answer the call.

In a perverse sort of way, there is inspiration in the rhetoric of Congresswoman Maxine Waters.  Think what you will of her, the lady has ATTITUDE!

(Republicans could use some of that.)

UPDATE 8/24/2011:
Scott Johnson at Power Line has an analysis of our government's newfound political favoritism toward illegal immigration.  He advances the idea that the new policy will create a spontaneous move for certain non-citizens to "turn themselves in" so they can benefit from the legal proceedings of this new administrative shortcut to citizenship.

It's an intriguing analysis, and points out the complications that lurk when we abandon "The Rule of Law."

UPDATE 9/7/2011:
The Denver Post has an editorial that brings attention to the subjectivity of administrative review in deportation cases.  While there might not be any trends as yet, the early cases indicate classic political favoritism.  Our culture is moving us away from the standard of "equal protection under the law" to one of "selective protection for political groups."

I don't think the Founding Fathers would approve.

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