Toward a post-Congressional America

Would the following posting in your local newspaper concern you?

“Come to the convention center this Thursday night to hear which laws your police department will no longer enforce.”

Instinct would say some usurpation has taken place. Too much power has centralized in the hands of too few.

Exactly which laws will be ignored is not necessarily the point. The primary point is the ignoring of this first principle: The ordinances of a statutorily-established, fairly-elected rulemaking body shall be universally enforced.

If the above scenario transpired, surely the foundation of our democracy would shudder. Certainly outrage would spill to the streets. “Dereliction of duty!” Breach of responsibility!” “Rogue lawlessness!”

Call it what you want, but it happened in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago. The president announced his administration would no longer enforce a significant piece of federal immigration law.

I’m not making a value judgment on the president’s particular position on immigration. That’s for another column.

I am making a judgment on his procedure, a heavy-handed one that reminds us of the rare parliamentary tool (“cloture”) that his allies used to pass Obamacare in 2010.

Then, many Massachusetts voters – and many Americans in general – thought the legislation was stalled after the shocking election of a Republican senator from the traditionally liberal state. It obviously was not.

Now, by fiat, the president is rendering Congress virtually useless on an issue of significant national concern. His brazenness is unprecedented.

The timing of the president’s announcement, not unlike the timing of his new position on gay marriage, reeks of campaign politics, making the proposition all the more unpalatable.

I understand that “transformation” travels faster by direct edict. Policy movement by discourse and debate is messy and unpredictable.

I understand Congress has seen better days. Its approval ratings are 20% or lower. The Wall Street Journal reports that many incumbents aren’t even uttering the word “Congress” in their re-election advertisements (opting for more innocuous phrases like “leading the fight in Washington”).

Perhaps there were more compromise and accomplishment in less polarizing times.

But to destabilize the balance of power in the aforementioned manner is an affront to our heritage. In addition, the president’s disregarding of Congressional information requests in the “Fast & Furious” case shows further disdain for the people’s representatives.

The legislative process is our best protector from elitists who, claiming to know our best interest, consolidate power to the point where it is impossible to wrestle back.

The other side will say the president’s predecessor stepped beyond Congressionally set limits with advanced terrorist interrogation or wiretapping.

However, those examples of executive power were used in uncharted national security territory and don’t compare with the current blatant disregard of long-standing law.

The logical extension of the president’s actions is the eventual superfluousness of the legislative branch. Given that Congress cannot enforce its own laws, the body would be reduced to a mere suggestion-giving entity.

Preferable to such tyranny is a parliamentary model where a weak executive prime minister does the bidding of the legislative body.

While clearly not ideal compared to the carefully measured power levers our founders gave us, I would gladly take it over an all-powerful executive who determines winners and losers by political affect.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at

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