The sigh of relief heard ‘round the world has blown by. The Great & Good and their media cheerleaders are now engaged in breathless adulation for the hero of the hour — Joe Biden. Joe rewarded them by signing a stack of Executive Orders to reverse the abhorrent agenda of the tacky, narcissistic, treasonous fascist whose butt formerly occupied the chair behind the desk in the Oval Office. Bad idea! Governing by executive order is autocracy lite.
First, a quick constitutional reminder. The function of the legislature is to pass laws. The function of the executive is to ADMINISTER the laws passed by the legislature. The only governmental function allowing wide discretion for the office of the President is foreign policy. Decrees from the Executive were specifically prohibited because the founders had experienced rule by Kings. The whole point of their endeavor was to establish rule of law as opposed to rule by a monarch.
Second, a quick history of executive orders. The first one was issued by Thomas Jefferson. For most of a century, they were few in number and covered minor administrative issues and/or cleaned up discrepancies in legislation. With the dawn of PROGRESSIVE, in the form of Teddy Roosevelt, things changed. He issued 1081, many of which usurped the legislative function. The next progressive, Woodrow Wilson, whose contempt for the Constitution was oft expressed, issued 1,803. FDR was the winner of this race by many lengths — 3,728.
After FDR, things returned to normal. Executive orders were few in number and did not address major policy issues. That changed with Obama. When the Democrats lost control of Congress in a resounding fashion, he used his “phone and pen” to try to rule by decree. A lot of his orders were overturned by the DC circuit court. When Democrats still controlled the Senate and several vacancies on that Court occurred, he had Reid end the filibuster for federal judges (except the Supreme Court) and proceeded to pack the DC circuit with regulation friendly judges. That decision did not serve the Democrats well in subsequent years. Trump then issued his own flood of consequential orders, reversing much of what Obama had done — taking the opportunity to waive his flamboyant signature around for a photo op.
Two groups are at fault for the executive order flood. Congress has failed to do its job. Members are so afraid of a primary challenge that they won’t make compromises to actually address controversial issues. Finding common ground and passing laws is anathema. The bills they do pass are monstrosities worked out by leadership behind closed doors, which allow huge discretion for unelected bureaucrats to write rules that act as the actual law to be enforced.
The second group are ideologues of all stripes who have no patience for the legislative process. They want what they want right now, in unadulterated form! Same with the special interests that fuel each of the parties. The cause in question is so important that the end justifies the means. Process can’t be allowed to stand in the way!
The problem is that process is what democracy is all about. An autocrat who rules by means of a majority of the popular or electoral vote is not as bad as one who takes power by military force, but it’s still autocracy. It renders each election a life or death matter. It poisons the well of democracy. The heavy breathers should stop applauding the signing ceremonies and start urging Congress to pass laws that can’t be undone by the stroke of the pen of the next autocrat in 2024.