By Louis Avallone
In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote in his phamplet “Common Sense” that “in America, the law is king.” In fact, America was born of the principle that no one is above the law, especially considering the American colonists opposition to the British monarchy. It was the monarchy’s lack of accountability to the people and its taxation without representation that sparked the American Revolution.
Many of our nation’s founders believed that, among the “natural rights” of man, was the right of the people to overthrow their government leaders when they acted against the interests of the people. According to philosophers such as John Locke, revolution is a safeguard against tyranny.
So what happens when government leaders suggest their own overthrow as a means to safeguard against the tyranny of the government? I am sure that sounds crazy to many of us, but that’s just what President Obama appeared to do last month, saying that the most important lesson of his presidency is that, “You can’t change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside.”
That’s like suggesting that if you can’t open the “door” from the “inside” then breaking the “door” down from the “outside” somehow will make it better. Unfortunately, all of this “most- important-lesson” business is just a bunch of malarkey.
For example and by contrast to Obama, men like Martin Luther King Jr. did fundamentally change Washington, and the nation, from the “inside” – working with the government, rather than seeking its overthrow, respecting the notion that America is a nation of laws whether at a sit-in at a lunch
counter or a bus boycott.
So the question for Obama is, “What type of ‘change’ can you only make from the outside when you are already the leader of the executive branch of the federal government and the commander-in-chief of the United States’ armed forces?” Is it a revolution against tyranny that you seek? Or the overthrow of a government that is acting against the interests of the people? The irony of the president’s comments is he has already very much changed Washington by working from the “inside” through multitudes of broad sweeping executive orders and legislative branch neutering. He already recognizes the power of being “inside” and brandishes that authority, even as the representatives of the people withhold their support to his policies.
It’s only because he is on the “inside” that the will of people makes little difference to him. As he said recently, “(W)hen Congress refuses to act, Joe and I are going to act … and take steps on our own.”
And as he told The New York Times again earlier this year, “If Congress refuses to act, I’ve said that I’ll continue to do everything in my power to act without them.” Even Obama’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget Peter Orszag wrote a magazine article earlier this year, extolling the virtues of why we need less democracy.
Well, if less democracy is the objective for these Democrats in Washington, then they must feel like a football team who is running up the score in the final minutes of the game.
After all, in just the last few months and without compromise or Congressional approval, this administration has feverishly set about substituting the rule of law through executive orders – from immigration to welfare to birth control.
Did you know that the Obama administration is enforcing only some of the federal immigration laws? By executive order, Obama established the “Dream Act,” even though Congress could not reach a consensus on the subject – and that was during the two years when the Democrats controlled Congress. Or how about the Department of Justice, who unilaterally decided it would no longer enforce federal laws against the use of marijuana? Or the Department of Health and Human Services gutting and invalidating the federal work requirements that were the foundation of the 1996 welfare reform law under President Bill Clinton? Then there’s the Department of Education, which is now offering waivers for the “No Child Left Behind” law in return for states adopting the Obama administration’s national education standards. Or how about the FCC that is beginning to regulate the Internet, even though a similar proposal failed to make it through Congress? Obama even bypassed the Senate confirmation process altogether to install four officials using his recess appointment powers in January.
This is the madness of comprehending how anyone could suggest that “change” is only possible from “outside” of Washington, all while they are brandishing the authority to invalidate legislation and the rule of law by their own executive order.
Yes, we are “a nation of laws, not of men,” as John Adams put it, and men like Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished change by respecting that principle. If the most important lesson you’ve learned is that change is only possible from outside of Washington when you wield the power of the presidency, maybe the kind of change you contemplate simply isn’t the will of the people at all.