Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Immigration impasse exposes politcal fault lines
Special to the Daily
Here we are; four days until another artificial deadline in another manufactured crisis. Four days until stopgap funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out. Four days to vilify Republicans as “obstructionists” who “want to expose America to attack.” Four days to figure out whether our Constitution matters to anyone any more, outside the 50 Republican members of the House who are, like Horatius, standing at the bridge against impossible odds. My best guess is they will be swept aside, because in truth too few people care about the Constitution to rise in its defense. This is one of many moments in the past six years we can tell our grandchildren about when they ask how our nation, once so prosperous and free, became as miserable and hopeless as it will be for them. Remember it.
The current impasse is superficially about the president’s decision to ignore the law for four — or five, or more — millions who have entered our country illegally, and illegally remain here. This decision, coupled with others by administrative agencies to provide work permits and taxpayer identification numbers, and to allow access to the Earned Income Tax Credit, amount to presidential usurpation of the law, the basis of a recent Federal Court decision that has stopped these practices for the time being.
To anyone not blinded by skin color or morbidly obsessed with past grievances real or imagined, presidential intrusion into the legislative sphere of Congress is a serious issue. And while one instance might be dismissed as an over-reach by an excitable or callow chief executive, repeated violations of the bright line separating lawmaking from executing the law is indicative of a president who holds neither the Congress nor the people of this country in high regard. The latter he apparently thinks can be purchased wholesale by emoluments and trinkets; the former may safely be ignored. Thus we have regulations born of the idea that a gas exhaled by every animal is a dangerous substance to be strictly controlled, regardless of the damage this will do to the nation’s financial health. We see exemptions to the law that bears the president’s name given to his favored political allies. We pay generous subsidies to millions in contravention of specific requirements in that same law. We watch as high officials of the administration lie openly to Congress, and are defended for their prevarication. Remember the emails of IRS official Lois Learner, involved in targeting conservative organizations? “Irretrievably destroyed,” said the IRS chief administrator. Except for the 30,000 or so that were turned up in Maryland two weeks later and subsequently concealed from Congress for months.
Hence the present impasse. There are still those who believe that separation of powers has value in that it protects both the people and the country from the unhealthy excesses of over-concentrated government, but their task is difficult. Their numbers are few and they face an administration that seems intent on “fundamentally changing” the country, by fair means or foul. Because of their principled opposition they are attacked by the administration’s spokespersons and friends, including the unreflective Obamaphiles of the media. At least they have not yet been labelled “traitors” or “enemies of the state,” as is currently the vogue in Moscow. But since an increasing number of Americans have been taught to be enraged but not to think of themselves as autonomous citizens of the world’s greatest republic, there is dwindling hope that the public will even understand the thought behind the House members’ stance.
Yet they stand. That they do is a tribute to strength of character and at least some sense of the historical implications of the moment. Perhaps there were Romans who, listening to the harangues of Tiberius Gracchus or Gaius Marius, thought ill of their lavish promises and their contempt for the reticence, order and self-sacrifice that underpinned the Roman Republic’s successes. But there weren’t many. A hundred years later, there were none — and we know what followed.
So it has always gone: power unchecked grows; people surrender what they neither understand nor value. Eventually a crisis is reached and astute but unscrupulous manipulators don’t let it go to waste. Cowed by false narratives of greed and racism, distracted by promises of peace, plenty and ease, lubricated by payment to favored classes, citizens surrender their freedoms and legislators their prerogatives. A single ruler gathers the reins of power into his hands. And when it’s over, people wake to wonder where the boot on their neck came from.
If we’re lucky, this is not that time. If we’re lucky, enough people still value principles. If we’re lucky, sufficient citizens are still engaged enough to turn the tide.
If we’re lucky …
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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