When President Barack Obama implemented DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), to give security to children brought into the country by their illegal immigrant parents, he did it through executive action.

As Rita Dunaway wrote back then, “a lonely bunch of lawyers and constitutional scholars will focus on the real issue in the case: whether a president, frustrated by the failure of Congress to pass a law, may make up the law on his own without them… in our republic, the appeal of the policy cannot justify its enactment by executive fiat. In the American system, process is paramount. The division of specified powers among the three federal branches is the hallmark and safeguard of our constitutional government.”

Conservatives spent eight years lamenting Obama’s abuses, explaining in patriotic fervor that he was setting a terrible precedent for Presidents that followed him. 

I know.  I was one of them. 

Then, in 2017, President Donald Trump rightly ended the program, because it was an abuse of executive power.

Then, things changed. 

Trump, more comfortable in his Oval Office power, decided that this same sort of behavior is perfectly fine when he does it.  Trump’s deferral of payroll taxes for people earning less than $104,000 a year altered tax policy, just as Obama’s DACA executive action altered immigration policy. His executive orders on COVID-19 are undermining the intent of the Constitution.

As David Harsanyi wrote, “When the legislative branch can’t reach an agreement on policy, it’s not the job of the executive branch to step in and unilaterally make the law.”

There are other parallels between Obama’s and Trump’s actions:

Just as Trump is arguing that his actions will be temporary, Obama argued at the time that DACA wouldn’t last forever — yet, you may have noticed, DACA effectively remains the law today. If presidents are able to sign “temporary stopgap measures” that exist in perpetuity, Congress is useless as a check on executive power.

This is true, and advocates of self-governance and limited government should stand together with liberals fighting against this, even if we need to point out that liberals are the ones who enabled Obama’s overreach for eight long years. 

Harsanyi notes that a clueless Washington Post reporter asked us to “imagine” what would’ve happened if  “Obama had broken up a congressional stalemate over funding by simply signing an executive order and saying it was so?”  Um…. 

That actually isn’t so hard, since this is exactly what he did and the liberal media (oh-but-I-repeat-myself) and Nancy Pelosi were just fine with it.

Harsanyi details some of Obama’s abuses:

Remember that it was Obama who simply declined to enforce mandates and taxes in the Affordable Care Act — legislation he had argued for and signed into law — simply because those provisions turned out to be unpopular. Obama didn’t delay or defer collection of Obamacare taxes. He didn’t promise to work on legislation to one day make his Obamacare changes permanent. He didn’t even bother coming up with a bogus emergency to rationalize his disregard for the law. He just did what was politically expedient. Nearly every elected Democrat, liberal pundit, and major editorial page defended this lawlessness using two rationalizations that Trump could now easily adopt himself.

Exactly.  What liberals overlooked THEN enables and facilitates what is happening NOW. 

That is a warning to both liberals and conservatives not to let partisanship color our willingness to call out wrong no matter who’s doing it.

“Soon, there will be no one left in American politics to offer any effective philosophical, practical, or political case against rank executive abuse,” Harsanyi writes.  “Whether President Trump’s executive orders on COVID-19 relief are technically legal or not, they clearly subvert the intent of the Constitution. When the legislative branch can’t reach an agreement on policy, it’s not the job of the executive branch to step in and unilaterally make the law.”

True.  This invalidates one of Trump’s complaints, that stubborn Congress which won’t cooperate.  In fact, one Trump official Peter Navarro actually told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that “the Lord and Founding Fathers created executive orders because of partisan bickering and divided government.”

However, as Harsanyi points out, Congress has no duty to take up any president’s agenda.  “Executive legislating disincentivizes congressional compromise and incentivizes partisanship. As we saw after Democrats lost the presidency in 2016, it often leads to erratic, see-saw governance, in which one party undoes what the other one did unilaterally as soon as it retakes power. It empowers bureaucrats to govern the country. It undermines national consensus and solidifies centralized governance from Washington, which is what progressives desire.”

I don’t know what will happen in November.  But if we don’t speak out now, we’ll lose our credibility to speak out the next time a Democrat President decides to do exactly what he wants by fiat.

Let’s listen to Rita Dunaway’s words back then, “In the American system, process is paramount. The division of specified powers among the three federal branches is the hallmark and safeguard of our constitutional government.”

These words are true then and now and always….  As long as we want to keep a self-governing country.

Hat Tip: Rita Dunaway in The Federalist and David Harsanyi in National Review

Image Credit Wikipedia



About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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