One of the things important to Democrats in the post-WW2 years was to reassert the authority of Congress. The extraordinary circumstances of the previous 15 years required a temporary dictator, of sorts, but the trouble was past and it was time to put things back as they were, in terms of political balance. The Cold War, however, meant they never really could fully restore Congress as the base of Federal power. The President in a time of forever war, would forever have powers delegated to an executive in times of war or emergency.
But, Congress clawed back a lot of their power, which is why we ended up with Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. The irony there is the massive expansion of the social welfare system would ultimately eliminate much of the power of Congress. After all, parliaments have one source of power and that is the power of the purse. If you create entitlements, that power is partially eliminated. Keep adding new entitlements and new benefits and before long Congress has little power at all.
The Louvre Accords in the 1980’s will be looked upon by historians as the great undoing of self-government, in all its forms, in the West. Unlimited zero-interest borrowing has made the power of the purse superfluous. Why should anyone worry about taxes or budgets when you have easy access to unlimited funds? It’s not an accident that Congress no longer passes budgets, but instead passes unread “continuing resolutions” that just roll existing budgets over for another year, with a big grab back of new goodies added on.
The power of the purse is four fold. Congress decides what to tax, how much to tax, how to allocate the tax revenues and, most important, to supervise the spending of the money. Since the Clinton years and the capitulation of Congress
at Runneymede over the budget, Presidents have little to fear from Congress regarding taxes and spending. Bush was hated by Democrats, but he got what he wanted as far as taxes and spending. After Clinton and Bush, the only power left to Congress was the supervision of the actual spending. Now, it is clear they no longer have that power.
The unwillingness of Republicans to hold the ground on what amounts to Impoundment by Obama is the last necessary concession to make Congress purely ceremonial. If they are unwilling or unable to exercise their oversight duties and instead leave it to the courts, there’s very little left for Congress to do. They can engage in busy work, go on TV and shake down private citizens for money, but otherwise they have no power. We have reached the point the Romans reached after Actium. That is, how much longer do we we pretend the republic is still reality?
I know a lot of people on the Dissident Right think democracy is a sham and the source of our problems. I tend to agree with the Founder critique of democracy as two wolves and sheep voting on what’s for lunch. Handing a veto to the least able just means the most clever and devious, the ones able to manipulate the least able and their veto, will rule the country. It’s why Western political elites are stocked with sociopaths. But, the trouble today is not that the people has too much power. It is that the people no longer have a tribune.
The issue of immigration is no greater way to illuminate this point. The public is overwhelmingly against the anarchy that has been unleashed by Obama. Voters of both parties in large majorities want greater enforcement, tighter control and tougher measures against scofflaws. As that NRO article makes clear, there were a number of avenues the GOP could have taken to force Obama to heel. They deliberately chose the one that was most likely to fail. Like borrowing limits, they are more concerned with eliminating the issue than solving the root problem.
The other interesting thing here is that we are seeing something rather strange. Revolutions and revolts have always been about a dispossessed public rebelling against their oppressive or derelict rulers. In the post-national West, we are seeing the ruling class revolt against their own people. Instead of mobs with torches and pitchforks surrounding the palace, the palace is unleashing the praetorian guards to ravish the people. As I’m fond of pointing out, we have been colonized by our own kind, who no longer see us as their own kind. The emasculation of the People’s House is the final blow.