Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Bible, Separation of Powers, and a Do Nothing Congress

Recently I was reading an article at RCP, entitled, 15 Most Annoying Expressions in Politics, by Carl Cannon.  "Do Nothing" should have been one of the annoying expressions.  Every branch of government is doing something, some of it permissible and much of it bad.  "Do nothing" is political.  If that branch, say the legislative branch, is one certain party, then another branch controlled by a different party, say the executive branch, will accuse it of doing nothing.  The House passes a budget and the Senate doesn't -- which house did something?  Doing something is in fact to do something that the president wants, like passing immigration reform.  However, if the House of Representatives passed an acceptable immigration package for the president, in the end would the House get credit for doing something?  I don't think so.  Maybe one branch says, "You're doing nothing!"  And then goes to play golf -- which is doing something, playing golf.

There is reason why the liberal side in politics is more unchurched and irreligious.  My view of the world, a biblical one, affects my positions on government.  It makes me a conservative.

One major usual differentiating factor between liberals and conservatives is how each reads the United States Constitution.  Conservatives support strict construction, a legal philosophy that favors the original meaning of the constitution and laws. Conservatives in essence exegete the text, taking the original understanding of the authors.  On the other hand, liberals read into the text of the constitution and laws, which is part of the meaning of "progressive."  That practice reflects their view of the world.

Progressives see the world as changing, evolving, and dynamic, essentially in conflict with the second law of thermodynamics.  They therefore approach language in the same way.  Progressives deconstruct language, accepting that words don't have just one meaning, so they can be assigned an understanding from the point of view of the reader.  This is the way that progressives read into a constitution and laws what they want them to mean.  They see the meaning of the constitution progressing, getting better, evolving, especially because they get to assign the new meaning that fits their own way.    This subjectivity allows the progressive to make the world mean what he wants it to mean so that he can walk after his own inclinations and desires (cf. 2 Peter 3:3-4).

Designed into the structure of the United States government through its Constitution is the separation of powers.  As most of you know, there are three branches with separate, but co-equal authority.  Not one branch has authority over the other.  The founders created three branches so that each branch would provide checks and balances to the other.   The founders generally believed in the inherent sinfulness of mankind, so that each separate branch would also put a check on the other.  You've heard, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."  Something near to that wording came from Lord Acton in 1887, but that statement was preceded by William Pitt the Elder in 1770, who said:  "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it."

Conservatives are convinced that whatever good there is needs to be conserved, and that won't happen by allowing unrestrained power, thus the limitation of the power of the federal government.  The U. S. Constitution not only limits power by three branches, but also by dividing power between the federal government and the states, and then by protecting the rights of individuals with a bill of rights.

This brings us back to "do nothingism."  When nothing is happening in government, that usually means the separate branches are checking the powers of the other.  A particular branch, like the executive branch, for instance, doesn't have free reign to do whatever it wants.  If one branch will accomplish anything, it must do it in cooperation with the other two branches.  However, some of what they are fulfilling is the purpose of the founding fathers in keeping a branch from having whatever it wants.  This sometimes is referred today as "the no congress," which is much like "doing nothing," of course, except for emphasizing the act "saying no" to what a president wants. The criticism might be, "This congress does nothing but say 'no' to the president."  In fact, the president is also saying "no" to the House of Representatives, because its budget is never passed by the president.  He's saying "no" to the House as well.

As of this writing, yesterday the Supreme Court said "no" to the President of the United States in a 9-0 decision, that decided his Senate recess appointments were unconstitutional.  The Court decides the President exceeded his authority in appointing executive officers when he said the Senate was in recess.  In other words, the Senate makes its rules, not the President.  He overstepped his authority. Many would argue that this present President has done this more than any other, expanding the authority of the executive branch above the other two branches of government, creating a constitutional crisis.

President Barack Obama wants to do something, but he's checked by the House of Representatives of the United States.  That occurs at the design of the U. S. Constitution.  Rather than work with Congress, this president decides again and again to circumvent the legislative branch to get what he wants, to do something that he wants that the House doesn't want.  He doesn't like being checked, so he does a lot that many originalists or textualists or strict constructionists say he doesn't have the power to do. He supersedes his constitutional authority, and he says he does it because he would rather do something than to do nothing.

Ironically, some of what President Obama has done, is nothing.  Instead of enforcing all of the immigration law, he does nothing.  Instead of enforcing election law, he does nothing.  Instead of even enforcing his own law, the affordable care act, he has chosen to enforce only selectively, divvying out special concessions for political purposes.  That's just what he has refused to do that Congress passed.  There's actually much more that he's done nothing about.   By not enforcing laws, he has essentially rewritten passed legislation, the law, to his own liking, except skipping the whole legislative process, including voting.  If this was a practice foreseen by the founding fathers, it was in the part of the Constitution dealing with articles of impeachment.  The end of the short oath of office for the president reads:  "to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."  He's not fulfilling that oath.

President Obama says he's going to do something as long as Congress does nothing.  So why doesn't the House pass immigration reform?  Let's say the House did.   We know if they did, we know this president would enforce the law, right?  He enforces laws, right?  Wrong.   Who can trust that if they did pass a bill, even if they wanted to do that, that he would follow what the law says.   Who wouldn't think that what he would do is enforce the parts of the law he likes and not enforce the parts he doesn't like?  I think a lot of representatives are very confident that the president would do something like that.  It's what he does.

The House wants to do something too, but it is blocked by the President.  There is not much the House can do if the President doesn't want the same things.  As a result, nothing gets done.  Again, that is by design.  This stalemate, the gridlock, in government is how the founding fathers envisioned the government.  Designed division.  Often you hear, "The American people don't want the Congress to do nothing."  Right.  If the "American people" did want the same as the President, they would vote in a different Congress, which would want the same things that he wants.  They haven't done that.  We should all be happy.

You often hear that President Obama is a constitutional scholar, a former constitutional professor. Maybe so.  So why does he go ahead and violate the Constitution?  One reason is that he may not think he is violating it.  He deconstructs the Constitution to mean what he wants it to mean, part of his progressivism.  It's what he learned from the smart people at Columbia and Harvard.

It is hard for me to believe that someone could think progressivism, deconstructionism, or loose construction could be true.   My best explanation is the debilitating effects of sin.  You don't go to a restaurant, order your meal, and you're brought something different because the chef or waiter deconstructed your order.  Nobody stands for that.  Nobody would call it progressive.   None of this works in the real world, except it does work in the mind of the liberal, because his mind has become destitute from sin.

Joseph de Maistre in 1811 wrote, "Every country has the government it deserves."  This applies even more so to this country, even as our Constitution starts with "We the people of the United States."  Abraham Lincoln reminded us of that in his Gettysburg Address with "government of the people, by the people, for the people." If this is the government of the people, then the people are getting exactly what they deserve.  A good question is, "Is this what the people really want?"  Like normal, we'll find a little more at the next electoral cycle.

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