We won. What do we do now?
It has taken six long years but finally—and to an extent still sinking in—we have neutralized the disastrous takeover of the federal government by a party bent on the fundamental transformation of our republic. To be sure, the recovery will take a long time but now we finally have an opportunity to make some positive change—not only at the federal level but also at the state level, where even more governorships and legislative bodies have changed hands.
It is a uniquely American concept that the legislative branch is supreme. It is no accident that Article I of the Constitution deals with the powers of Congress. In virtually every society throughout history, the government was run by a leader—whether he be called king, emperor, Duce, Fuerher, or Supreme Ayatollah. That executive made the rules and enforced the laws. Not here.
From our experience with Britain, we Americans came to rely on the legislatures. Colonial governors were appointed by the king, as were magistrates; colonial legislatures were elected by the people. We fought the Revolution under a Continental Congress and afterwards joined together under the Articles of Confederation and a congress. We were highly suspicious of an executive.
But the Articles proved that we needed some kind of executive authority and we got a President in the Constitution—a role which was separate from the law-making body and in several important ways subordinate to it. Over the years, Congresses have devolved more and more power on the presidency and the administration.
This must stop—and be reversed. Now. There will be no other chances. This is the most important thing Congress can do in the next two years.
In the few days since the election, every pundit, think tank and policy wonk has put out a list of the legislative actions the Congress should take. There are many actions that need to be taken; the damage has been great and it started long before 2009. If we don’t put a stop to the administrative state and the imperial presidency, all those policy actions will be for nothing.
Much has been made of the fact that the Republican national party didn’t have an election theme: nothing like the 1994 Contract with America. Even so, the trends are there. According to a Weekly Standard study, the top issues as defined by ad buys in October are:
- Budget/Government Spending
These are the same issues as in 2010 and in 2012—and they are nearly all the making of the Democrats as they tried to fundamentally transform America. They all need to be addressed in ways that assert the central authority of the Congress. In that light, the federal departments and agencies are in serious need of reform, like the FCC and the EPA, have assumed authorities they do not have and spent money in ways the Congress did not intend.
The Congress must use its power of the purse and the power to investigate to correct these abuses of power.
Much has been made of the presidential veto if the Congress were to exert fiscal responsibility by reducing the budget and eliminating the deficit. Without the shield of an obstructionist Harry Reid, let the president own fiscal irresponsibility. The Congress will be able to override a presidential veto of a responsible budget. Who’s up for reelection in 2016?
Much has also been made of what the president might do unilaterally in the lame duck session. There’s a simple answer for this as well: Whatever he does in December can be undone in January. Furthermore, Congress can even now use the power of the purse to defund any unilateral amnesty order. Ideas are already circulating in both Houses.
For Congress to reclaim its proper Constitutional role, the 535 member of Congress may need some encouragement. The elections of 2010 and 2014—mid-term elections focus more on Congress—should be notices to them that the people are not shy about replacing representatives not to their liking.
We the People need to stay engaged with our representatives and with the direction Congress is taking. Elections every two years may have been good enough more than two hundred years ago but today we can reach our representatives instantaneously.
A nation built on self-government requires—well, self-government.
This is a once in a generation—perhaps once in a lifetime—opportunity. Let’s keep the pressure on so that the politicians don’t blow it.