Whoever enabled Donald Trump to be elected President, it will have been Progressives who make his Presidency what it is. The disdain the Left has shown for restricting power, implementing checks and balances and defending Presidential reach into Congressional prerogatives will now provide Trump with the precedent to implement policies he should never be able to take, unilaterally. The chickens will come home to roost.
This tragedy could have partly been mitigated if the Left hadn’t spent the last eight years cheering on Obama’s overreach, if the liberal members of Congress hadn’t let their duty to the institution be clouded by their party loyalties. Barack Obama systematically undertook sweeping executive actions that should have been stopped by Congress on the basis of the separation of powers, with Progressives cheering him on because they agreed with his policy decisions. It was the short-sighted view of the self-righteous who decided the present ends justified the means and to hell with the long-term implications.
We are now faced with a man who is authoritarian in his soul, a situation Progressives clearly never worried about while Obama was in power. These people cheered every move that was made to enable the Obama administration to advance its goals more quickly. They cheered the party line vote on Obamacare. They cheered when Reid eliminated the filibuster. They cheered the EPA’s twisted interpretations. They cheered the Iran deal mechanism that created what, by all rights, should have been a treaty ratified by the Senate. They cheered when Obama made recess appointments even when the Senate was in pro forma session, when he simply arrogated to himself the power to decide that pro-forma sessions weren’t really sessions. (That was actually a rare instance, in the end, where such behavior failed as the Supreme Court struck down that logic 9 – 0).
So much damage has been done to our institutions and our system of checks and balances over the last eight years that Donald Trump will have leeway to take all sorts of actions that, in a more federalist time, would have required gathering support from across the aisle. Hopefully, Progressives will be chastened by this moment, and will learn that having checks on power – even your own power – is a good thing in the long run, because power is fleeting. Maybe now the Liberals will start to think about trying to restore the rights and privileges to the Congress that they let lapse. Sadly, with the precedent established, they are likely to be thwarted by those who will now assume power, who will simply view it from the perspective “turnabout is fair play”.
I hear the phrase “the right side of history” a lot from my liberal friends, which is a very silly phrase, since there is no “right side” of history. It is simply flowery language for asserting that one’s position is the morally correct one. I hope that the Left, after this defeat, learns just how vacuous a statement it is, used to justify all sorts of actions when one is in power, not with logic, but with a simple declarative statement. I expect we will hear from the new victors that they are on the “right” side of history, and I would expect them to act with all of the moral superiority that was, until just now, exercised by the liberals.
The greatest thing about the Constitution is not its right of free speech, or its guarantees of due process or its protection of equal rights. Many dictatorships and authoritarian regimes include those features. The Soviet Union did. The greatest feature of the Constitution is that it recognizes and actively divides power, which both prevents dictatorship and assures that change comes slowly, but with broad consensus. Major social decisions were to be decided by all, not a 50.1% majority temporarily holding power. Yesterday, the Liberals, who were so eager to cheer change pushed through by the narrowest of margins when it was the change they supported, found out that history is not a one-way ratchet that goes in their favor.
I only hope they learn from it.