In an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer that is stunning in its partisan short-sightedness and frightening in its implications for the belief system of many on the hard left, Stan Isaacs pushes the notion that President Obama, faced with a Supreme Court that is likely to rule against him in a narrow 5-4 fashion, should follow FDR’s lead and attempt to pack the Court in his favor.
Isaacs is practically giddy in telling us that the size of the Court has fluctuated over American history (though it has remained static since 1869), and FDR faced similar challenges from a hostile judiciary, so by this logic Obama would be well within his rights to simply expand the size of the Court and appoint a few ideologically aligned Justices to rubber stamp whatever proposals he gets passed through Congress.
The only problem is that it would be just as unpopular now as it was in FDR’s time. The public would correctly view such a move as a move by a single President to exert singular control over every potential measure of Constitutional check against his power. Technically, the President could probably do it, but in so doing he would cast himself as a unitary executive whose will would trump the concerns and protests of any who stood in his way.
The scary part is that folks like Isaacs have no problem whatsoever giving their favorite politician such authority. In their frustration with an American public that they see as too ignorant to know what’s best for them, they strive to give kingly powers to anyone who promises to enact their progressive agenda, democracy and the will of the people be damned.
With columns like this, can you really blame conservatives for getting antsy about the growth of government and the push to give Congress and the White House more and more power over economic and societal decisions? There is a disturbing willingness to circumvent the spirit and letter of the law in order to enact a political agenda pursued with an almost religious zeal. We see it in the most hardened arguments to ignore the protests of a wide segment of the country and ram through health care reform via reconciliation, and we see it in opinions expressed here.
Such acts are the baby steps of a banana republic, one that would quickly fall into totalitarianism. The processes of our government may be inconvenient, but they were designed to prevent any one faction from gaining too much power over all others. In a quest to fulfill a political wish list, some on the left (and right) would do well to remember that the Founders weren’t coming up with the rules and scorecards for some arcane political game that one can “win” and get everything they want enacted – they were attempting to create a form of government that simultaneously empowered a common sense majority and protected the rights of the minority opinion.
We have transformed our political process into a “winner take all” mentality, and our political discourse reflects this. It may be already too late to reverse this sports world mentality of government, but the integrity of our representative democracy demands that we try.