The End of Another Unconstitutional Year


Ilya Shapiro revisits his biannual practice of listing “President Obama’s Top Ten Constitutional Violations of 2015.”  It’s not an easy task, to be sure.

Setting aside legislation and executive action (on which more imminently), we note that one of President Obama’s chief accomplishments has been to return the Constitution to a central place in our public discourse.

Unfortunately, the president fomented this upswing in civic interest not by talking up federalism or the separation of powers but by blatantly violating the strictures of our founding document. With his pen and his phone, and hearkening to Woodrow Wilson’s progressive view of government, he’s been taking out his frustrations with the checks and balances that inhibit his ability to “fundamentally transform” the country.

This president has certainly been a lesson in how easily a demagogue with the backing of the elite (which brings him a palace-guard news media and a judiciary wanting, at the very least, not to provoke him into full assault) can make treasured civic freedoms and rights disappear in just a matter of a few years.  Mind you, Obama has been busy mainly knocking out procedural rules that the average American won’t perceive as grounded in rights — unconstitutional revisions to ObamaCare, for example, and expanding the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  For the most part, these are actions that people generally accept that government can do, even if they’re supposed to involve the legislature.

Protecting such structural pieces of our constitutional order, however, is how we prevent the next step into dictatorship.  After all, the legislature isn’t just a bureaucratic spot for new laws to stop for the proper stamp.  It’s how we’re supposed to ensure that we consent to the laws under which we live.  In that regard, the damage that Obama has done goes way beyond a few legislative shortcuts, and we’ve seen hints in such things as the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups to ensure the president’s reelection and the scapegoating of a filmmaker over the Benghazi attack, as well as the dubious transfer of taxpayer dollars to preferred businesses and activist groups.

We live in perilous times.  That too few people recognize that fact only exacerbates the peril.