Government & Politics

Obama's Poor Management Reveals Wilson's Flawed Vision

Powerful executive, weak Constitution -- not a good combination.

Jun. 5, 2014

Our nation’s first “progressive” president, Woodrow Wilson, held two key views that come into play in the modern age: a malleable Constitution and a virtually all-powerful executive. Barack Obama employs both with gusto, but his unconstitutional policies, horrible mismanagement and tyrannical overreach have clearly shown the folly of the progressive approach.

The Founders saw two fundamental ways for government to exercise its authority. The first is arbitrary rule. Government acts on an ad hoc basis, leaving decisions to the whim of whoever’s in charge at the time – the default system that has caused so much misery over man’s civilized existence. The second system is grounded in Rule of Law. Laws made and published in advance rule both governed and governor alike. Wilson and his intellectual heirs reject the Founders’ choice and favor the ad hoc approach.

“Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice,” declared Wilson. “Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop. All the progressives ask or desire is permission – in an era when ‘development,’ ‘evolution,’ is the scientific word – to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle.”

Political progressivism – basically the American version of Otto von Bismarck’s German socialism – made its appearance in the late 19th century when exciting new technological wonders seemed to come daily. There were new advances like radio, X-rays, the discovery that tiny bugs cause the plague and the new theory of human origin. Progressives thought that “experts” in these various fields could better manage the lives of citizens than could those citizens. We see this arrogance today in every IRS bulletin, health care mandate and EPA regulation.

Progressives saw the American government as profoundly flawed because of its weak executive branch, which wasn’t sufficient to achieve their goals. Their biggest obstacle was the Constitution’s separation of powers that prevented any one branch of the federal government from exercising powers that expressly belonged to another.

Therefore, the Constitution must be interpreted “according to the Darwinian principle” in order to empower the enlightened executive with its experts to run our lives.

Wilson was unshakable in his belief in the superiority of the executive, as is his ideological descendent, Barack Obama. The latter made good use of his majority-Democrat Congress to pass the dream legislation of every progressive: ObamaCare. With its reams of pages and monstrous complexity, ObamaCare is gilded progressivism. Perhaps even more in line with Wilson’s vision, Obama refuses to enforce laws he doesn’t like, notably immigration law, and rewrites others (ObamaCare) to suit his political goals. He’s used his powerful agencies to intimidate political enemies, shield law breakers, enforce non-existent regulations, traffic guns to Mexico and now to release terrorists on a weary world.

In his book, “Constitutional Government in the United States,” Wilson wrote, “The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit.” Obama is a small man in an office he has made too big for himself.

The irony of this empty suit’s tenure is that he has undermined the progressive gospel of government. If you believe government has whatever power it desires and is the answer to every problem, as Obama clearly does, you should at least competently run it. Instead, systemic bureaucratic corruption and craven political considerations rule the day. And Obama repeatedly claims he finds out what his administration is doing via news reports. As former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan recently put it, Obama is “undercutting what he stands for, the progressive project that says the federal government is the primary answer to the nation’s ills.”

The best argument against Big Government is Big Government. It would seem the Founders were right after all.

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