On Crisis, Martin Folkertsma draws attention to the Obama administration’s selective enforcement of federal laws, from ignoring the the Defense of Marriage Act to declining to deport certain illegal immigrants to unilaterally revising the 1996 welfare reform law. Even if some of those issues (like the welfare waiver controversy) are more complicated than Republicans make them out to be, and even if some of the president’s actions (like stopping the deportation of young illegal immigrants) are desirable, the ever-increasing power of the executive branch is unsettling.
Consider: One definition of a just government is a government of laws, and not of men. A government of laws is predictable, whereas a government of men is as arbitrary and biased as whoever holds power. Laws may be flawed, but if they’re enacted by elected representatives and enforced in a reasonably fair manner, then society can depend on some semblance of order and justice. It doesn’t matter whether your party or your opponent’s party is in office: Everyone knows what the laws are and can plan their lives accordingly. And the rulers, no matter how corrupt or confused, are limited by the laws, so they cannot reign like dictators.
But when the president can ignore, revise, or entirely reinterpret the laws and the Constitution as he sees fit, then the laws are meaningless. The people are no longer governed by the legislation written by the representatives they elected. They are governed by the whim of a single man. The results of this change are mildly troubling in the cases of immigration and welfare; they’re terrifying when it comes to, say, due process. President Obama was aware of all this when he was just a senator. He would do well to remember it now.