It’s a scary thought, but here it is: If some red states were to openly defy the authority of President Obama in the exercise of his constitutional duties, would today’s Republican Congress side with him? Or would they honor the insurrection?
I wish it could be said with confidence that the legislative branch would oppose a rebellion against the executive branch of government. But I’m not so sure.
Last month, the Republican-led Arizona House of Representatives passed, on a 36-to-24 party-line vote, a bill sponsored by tea party Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) that “prohibits this state or any of its political subdivisions from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with an executive order issued by the President of the U.S. that has not been affirmed by a vote of Congress and signed into law as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.”
If adopted by the Arizona Senate and signed into law, executive orders issued by the president would have no force or effect in that state. What’s more, the Arizona House has passed a number of other bills aimed at nullifying policies, rules and regulations of the Obama administration that have not been approved by Congress.
The word “insurrection” does come to mind. Yet the resistance out West to federal authority has been received in virtual silence on Capitol Hill. It’s almost as if the GOP Congress wanted an uprising against the president.
This country has drifted far beyond the rough-and-tumble give-and-take that historically occurs between the parties. It’s one thing to oppose the president’s policies. It’s quite another to refuse to acknowledge presidential authority.
That’s what we are witnessing in the Arizona House. That’s what we also saw with the 47 Republican senators who wrote to the Iranian government, warning that Obama is seeking a nuclear agreement that won’t last beyond his administration.
Sabotaging Obama shows up in other ways.
This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told countries involved in negotiating a U.N.-brokered international climate change agreement that they should “proceed with caution” because of intransigent opposition to Obama’s efforts to significantly scale back U.S. carbon emissions.
McConnell also seeks to undermine presidential authority here at home. In a March 3 op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader, McConnell told states to ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate for clean power regulations. “Think twice before submitting a state plan,” McConnell implored the states. “Hold back.”
The Arizona insurrection, the GOP senators’ attempt to undermine negotiations over a nuclear agreement, the Senate leader’s effort to rupture international climate change negotiations and his call for open defiance of federal regulations are all aimed at marginalizing Obama by rendering him powerless.
Sometimes, in their zeal, the Republicans get out of control.
Recall the March 2012 edition of the newsletter of the Republican Party of Greene County, Va., which called for an “armed revolution” if Obama won reelection that November?
There was, of course, some after-the-fact tut-tutting by Virginia GOP leaders who weren’t about to take up arms. The county’s GOP leadership, which cut loose the writer, Ponch McPhee, announced boldly, “We do not believe that if the results end up with the re-election of Barack Obama, that will necessitate what the author suggests.” Not quite a stinging denunciation, but these days the president’s supporters must take what they can get. But they, the president and the Constitution deserve more.
American history teaches that we are on a dangerous path. And history has a way of repeating itself. A little more than 150 years ago, this country experienced another bombastic phase. Hatred of a president and his government’s policies produced a bloody schism that eventually led to an accord grounded in hope but which papered over a disharmony still lingering today.
Then, as now, there was a president, Abraham Lincoln, accused by those who detested him of misusing presidential power, subverting the Constitution and trampling over states’ rights. Then, as now, that president was characterized as a ruthless tyrant bent upon destroying a superior civilization.
Then, as now, that president was portrayed as a simpleton, a buffoon and a coward.
Wisconsin newspaper editor Marcus M. Pomeroy wrote as the election of 1864 approached: “The man who votes for Lincoln now is a traitor and murderer. . . . And if he is elected to misgovern for another four years, we trust some bold hand will pierce his heart with dagger point for the public good.”
’Course, we have our own Ponch McPhees.