The Obama Administration has been in the thick of some serious controversies both lately and over the past few years. Multiple problems at the IRS; executive orders apparently intended to circumvent Congress on immigration reform; a blanket decision not to prosecute people using marijuana for ‘medical’ purposes, despite federal law to the contrary; ‘kill lists’ and droning of suspected terrorists; refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s constitutionality in court while continuing to enforce it as law, thereby guaranteeing a legal challenge could rise to the U.S. Supreme Court; and now arguably unconstitutional delays implementing portions of Obamacare all seem to indicate our Executive Branch is operating with a distorted notion of the Rule of Law.
The Rule of Law is part of what sets America apart from previous nations. We are supposed to be a self-governed people that chooses its own leaders from among its own ranks. At the core, however, is a Constitution to ensure we are ruled by laws instead of executive dictates. Lately, however, we see a sprawling Executive Branch filled with unelected “czars” and new government offices formed at an alarming rate. Our Judicial Branch is more than ready to run roughshod over the will of the People, and if it is politically expedient, the Executive Branch seems fine allowing them to do so. If a law is inconvenient, many seem to prefer finding a way around the law rather than democratically changing it—or better yet, appealing to a judge to strike the inconvenient law altogether. When did the Rule of Law become our enemy?
Rule of Law provides stability for our nation. We rely on it daily, in fact. Think about it. There is nothing magical about red lights and green lights that lets them control moving vehicles. When a traffic light turns green or red, you obey it, and you expect other drivers to do so as well. If another driver does not—and they hit your car with theirs—you appeal to law enforcement to determine who was at fault. If the accident is serious or contested, you take it to a judge to make a decision about your specific situation. Compare that to less-developed nations where the outcome of a traffic accident might be determined by a brawl, and you begin to appreciate what a civil process ours truly is. The fact that we are a nation governed by the Rule of Law makes that possible.
I, personally, do not like Obamacare, but if you are legally bound to implement a law, you cannot delay implementation simply because it no longer seems politically favorable to do so. Appeal to Congress to change the law, if you no longer like it. That is a completely appropriate response. In fact, it is the response our laws require.
Our Founders understood if the government enforced or obeyed laws only when it was convenient to do so, it would lead to tyranny. Congress alone has the power to make laws; it is the Executive Branch’s duty to carry out and defend those laws; and the Judicial Branch’s duty to settle disputes over the consequences of those laws. As that system breaks down, tyranny of one form or another is bound to emerge. Perhaps the only thing more disconcerting than the government’s apparent disdain for the Rule of Law is the American People’s apparent indifference toward its implications.
Jerry Cox is President of Family Council, a conservative organization based in Little Rock, Ark.