In testimony before Congress yesterday, Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School warned that America has reached a constitutional tipping point.
We are now at the constitutional tipping point for our system. If balance is to be reestablished, it must begin before this President leaves office and that will likely require every possible means to reassert legislative authority. No one in our system can “go it alone” – not Congress, not the courts, and not the President. We are stuck with each other in a system of shared powers—for better or worse. We may deadlock or even despise each other. The Framers clearly foresaw such periods. They lived in such a period. Whatever problems we are facing today in politics, they are problems of our own making. They should not be used to take from future generations a system that has safeguarded our freedoms for over 250 years.
Mr. Turley believes that President Obama has exceeded his authority and that our system of government with its checks and balances is threatened, and that means our freedoms and our childrens' freedoms are threatened. These are not the ravings of a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, but the concerns of a constitutional scholar with very liberal tendencies. As he said in his testimony,
As someone who voted for President Obama and agrees with many of his policies, it is often hard to separate the ends from the means of presidential action. Indeed, despite decades of thinking and writing about the separation of powers, I have had momentary lapses where I privately rejoiced in seeing actions on goals that I share, even though they were done in the circumvention of Congress. For example, when President Obama unilaterally acted on greenhouse gas pollutants, I was initially relieved. I agree entirely with the priority that he has given this issue. However, it takes an act of willful blindness to ignore that the greenhouse regulations were implemented only after Congress rejected such measures and that a new sweeping regulatory scheme is now being promulgated solely upon the authority of the President. We are often so committed to a course of action that we conveniently dismiss the means as a minor issue in light of the goals of the Administration. Many have embraced the notion that all is fair in love and politics. However, as I have said too many times before Congress, in our system it is often more important how we do something than what we do. Priorities and policies (and presidents) change. What cannot change is the system upon which we all depend for our rights and representation.
Unlike Mr. Turley, I do not believe that the accrual of power in the executive branch is a side effects of Obama's good faith effort to bring about policy change. It's the other way around. Policy prescriptions chosen by this president are calculated to enhance progressive power. It was always his plan to transform America, and so to accomplish that goal everything he proposes, from health care reform to action on climate change, requires enhanced regulatory power in government and reduced economic power for private citizens. The power of Congress, and of the people, is diminishing by design.