Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Totalitarian Presidency

Thankfully, the 2012 election did not have the Messianic mood of the 2008 election. Obama’s dreams of utopia never materialized and no one made the same mistake of confusing Obama with God. The American people seem to have realized that, whatever his pretensions, Obama is only a man.

But while the nation of America seems to have got over wanting Obama to be God, they have not given up the wish for the President to have God-like powers. Indeed, Obama’s re-election suggests that America wanted a stronger and more powerful president, one that is almost omnipotent.

Historically, the Executive Branch has only played a limited role, and the United States Constitution even prohibits the President from introducing legislation. This was intentional, since the legal structure of the United States was set up so that most power resided in the states and in their elected legislatures.

Throughout the twentieth-century, however, American Presidents have progressively assumed unprecedented powers. Yet nothing compares with the way Obama has reinvented the Executive office.

Even before taking power in 2008, it was clear that Obama believed the president would possess almost super-human powers. He made some extraordinary promises about what he would accomplish, even claiming that he would cut the federal deficit in half. Such promises could only have been made by someone with an insufficient grasp of how bad America’s economic recession really was, or someone with an over-inflated sense of how much power the President actually wields. Indeed, a foreigner listening to Obama’s extraordinary promises could be forgiven for thinking that the executive branch was the sole organ of government and capable of automatically implementing all the Presidents wishes.

While the United States President may not wield as much power as Obama might wish, he has done everything he can to increase that power. I have already given some examples in my earlier article ‘Totalitarian Creep’, but some more recent examples include
  • By expanding George Bush’s “war on terror” to mainland United States (not to mention expanding it abroad), President Obama has introduced war-time conditions into America. But the “war on terror” is ubiquitous and can never be won since it is against an abstract foe, which by definition can never satisfy the conditions for surrender. The intrusion of this abstract fight into America herself means that all citizens become potential enemies, and no longer can they depend on their historic rights for protection. This is to invest the Executive Branch with a power undreamed of by the architects of the American nation.
  • Obama’s proposed Cybersecurity executive order would re-route all Internet traffic through federal agencies, ostensibly to be on the look-out for terrorist groups. But let’s not forget that under Obama the Department of Homeland Security issued a report associating states’ rights activists and “those “dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion” with domestic terrorists. Is this really the type of administration we want spying on our internet activity?
  • The Obama administration put mechanisms in place earlier this year which have been designed to create an infrastructure inimical to any criticism of Islam.
  • Obama has attempted to bypass the supreme court, showing that he does not understand the division of powers that lies at the heart of the American system.
  • On 16 march, 2012, President Obama signed into law Executive Order 13603, which makes provisions for establishing martial law in America during times of peace. Brandon Turbeville explains how this will allow “the President and his Secretaries have the authority to seize all transportation, energy, and infrastructure inside the United States as well as forcibly induct/draft American citizens into the military” and possible forced labor. (Click here to listen to a revealing radio show about the order, and visit William Anderson’s article Executive Orders and the Decline of Law‘ for a good background about executive orders in general.)

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