Last Tuesday night, huddled around the small TV poised on top of the dresser in my dorm room, my friends and I watched the State of the Union Address. Surrounded by Coca-Cola products, a notepad, and Twitter, we were ready for whatever Barack Obama was going to force-feed the nation.
At the end, the speech was no substance and all fluff. In the words of someone much smarter than me, “Obama basically fed the nation a bread sandwich.”
It was a tough year for President Obama: Benghazi, the NSA scandal and many other issues abounded. Being a true politician, he smartly shied away from those issues. Instead, he brought up issues far graver than who’s wiretapping your grandmother: He affirmed his complete and utter ignorance of the Constitution.
That frightens me more than anything in the world.
From early on in his speech, it became clear that President Obama would be ignoring the Constitution for the remaining years of his term, stating that “America doesn’t stand still and neither will I,” and promising that he would act on his own–with or without the cooperation and consent of Congress. Whether it was unemployment, gun rights, or immigration reform, President Obama assured us that Congress and the Constitution would not get in the way of his “grand plans for America.”
Let’s rewind for a minute all the way back to the 1700s, when our Founding Fathers were drafting our “Apple of Gold and Frame of Silver,” the Constitution of the United States. Having just a short time ago left the oppressive, authoritative British regime, the United States was concerned with having a powerful executive. They were concerned that a chief executive would overstep his bounds and ignore the rights for which the people of this country had so bravely fought. As a result, they inserted checks and balances into the Constitution to ensure that no one branch became more powerful than the others.
The State of the Union rebutted this critical aspect of our Constitution, instead showing how Obama intends to circumvent our two-hundred year-old governing system that was put in place to prevent that exact kind of circumvention.
Using executive orders, Obama plans to defy our founding principles and implement projects (notice I did not say legislation) that he believes are good and right. For example, Obama touted gun control on the national level stating in his speech:
Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters and our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.
By “stopping recent tragedies,” it’s almost certain he means reforming and increasing gun control in the United States. But in a recent Gallup poll, the statistics showed that the majority of individuals 1) are actually satisfied with the current system and 2) do not desire a stricter system as proposed by President Obama. If that’s the case, then why are we changing what doesn’t need to or want to be changed?
Obama is ignoring the people’s desires by passing over Congress, the body of representatives charged with expressing those desires through our government’s laws and policies. This gun control is not limited to just one executive action, it’s many more than that! In one of President Obama’s fact sheets on his response to gun violence released in 2013, it explained how President Obama planned to respond to the gun issue with 23 executive actions that would not occur with the consent of Congress.
Nevertheless, this was not the only instance of executive order use appearing in his State of the Union address. Soon thereafter, President Obama explained how he “will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.” Again, this action comes without the approval of Congress. My question is this: since Congress is Constitutionally responsible for budget and funding, wouldn’t they know whether or not we could afford such an increase? In other words, if it was a legitimate increase, wouldn’t Congress have funded it and permitted it to pass?
This same theme was echoed in each subsequent part of his speech: President Obama committed to using his pen and phone as so he can act “unilaterally without seeking approval from the Republican controlled house,” as the Washington Post explained. While issues like unemployment, immigration reform, gun rights, and taxes are truly of great importance, without the protection of our Constitution the government will run rampant against the people. President Obama’s speech set a dangerous precedent for our nation, showing through word and deed that the Constitution will be ignored.
This is the greatest problem of our generation and of this decade. Without the Constitution, our principles, ethics and foundation as a nation will be no more. Referring to these actions as a “rebuilding of trust,” in his own words, President Obama has instead lost the trust that the American people and our Constitution had instilled in him as our country’s leader.
Hank Prim | Hillsdale College | @HankPrim