Imagine an armed robbery being publicly committed in broad daylight under the purview of an on-duty police officer. If that police officer did no more than turn to the on-looking crowd and express his disapproval of the actions of the criminal, would we conclude that the officer had done anything of substance? Maybe he could post a picture of the perp on Facebook, or tweet it with a #badguy tag, or start a petition demanding that the robber stop robbing people. Neither the most righteous indignation in the world nor the most public display of disapproval will deter a determined criminal. Fortunately, accountability would be demanded of this hypothetical police officer and he probably would not hold his job for long. Of course he could then seek elected office where our expectations are clearly quite different than they are for other authority figures.
In the analogy above, are we more disappointed about the actions of the robber, or the policeman? Is the more reasonable expectation that the criminal stop acting like a criminal, or is it more reasonable to expect the policeman start acting like a policeman? Is it reasonable to conclude that a person given the authority, the ability, and the opportunity to stop an injustice, but refuses to do so, is anything but an accomplice in that injustice?
The dysfunction of American politics has reached a surreal height. Like a recurring nightmare we watch as injustice after injustice is met with feckless response after feckless response. We are bombarded with deja vu disappointments at a dizzying pace. The most powerful branch of the U.S. government, our national legislature, musters no greater resistance to executive injustice than to express its disapproval. Assaults on fundamental liberties are resisted with simple disapproval. Regulatory overreach is met with simple disapproval. Abuse of authority is met with simple disapproval. Betrayal of the Constitution that oaths have been sworn to uphold are met with simple disapproval. It is only arrogance that makes one man believe that another man’s misdeeds can be stopped by his disapproval. The Legislature has the authority, the ability, and the opportunities to stop the executive abuses that are taking place. Every day that they fail to stop the lawlessness is a day in which they participate in it.
The mockery of Michelle Obama’s hashtag diplomacy in support of the kidnapped Nigerian girls is well deserved. But her diplomatic efforts are no less shallow than the theatrics with which GOP leaders respond to executive crisis after executive crisis. There is literally more effort put into raising funds on the back of these crises than there is into solving them. Last week Texas Senator John Cornyn made the following statement regarding the catastrophe underway at America’s southern border:
“In recent weeks it’s become impossible to deny the fact that we have a full-blown humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexican border. Sadly, this crisis is directly the result of President Obama’s own policies and it involves tens of thousands of young children… risking their lives.
Tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Secretary Jeh Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security will be testifying and I hope he can provide us some answers.”
Jeh Johson – the top official charged with enforcement of our immigration laws. The same Jeh Johnson that demonstrated a complete lack of intent to carry out his constitutional duty back in January when he said that those that have come to our country illegally had “earned the right to be citizens.” The same Jeh Johnson that should have long ago been impeached by congress for blatantly refusing to carry out the mandate of his office. Cornyn is right. Obama’s policies did enable the crisis, but it remains to be seen if Cornyn will do more than vilify an administration that sincerely could not care less about his disapproval. We have a “full-blown” crisis regarding the separation of powers and the rule-of-law in Washington D.C..
The unfortunate truth is that it was only possible to “deny the fact” that we have a crisis on the border prior to “recent weeks” because the situation wasn’t made apparent to enough of our citizenry. The crisis itself has been taking place for well over a year. Where was Senator Cornyn when four times the typical annual influx of “Unaccompanied Alien Children” inundated our border in 2013? Where was he when twice the typical number arrived in 2012? Central American governments, the government of Mexico, and the government of the United States have been fully aware of this issue for a very long time. The only reason it is a “crisis” today is because the people are finally aware of what these governments had already known.
No single branch of our government is unified against lawlessness at any significant level. A symptom of it may be addressed here and there when the popular awareness of an issue rises to the point that the politicians must deviate from business as usual to engage in the theater of disapproval long enough to raise funds from the crisis or make election points with the people back home. Occasionally it reaches a boiling point where actual action takes place. Without fail it is the minimum action required to assuage the narrowly focused concerns of an offended constituency.
We are faced with overwhelming frustration at the disconnect between shallow hashtag politics and profoundly destructive attacks being directed at the foundations of the Republic. We see that frustration play out in the removal of GOP leadership like Eric Cantor. We see it in the removal of long standing GOP representatives like Ralph Hall. A significant portion of the Republican constituency is saying “enough”, and yet the house Republicans replace Cantor with a Cantor establishment clone. We demand action and they give us theater and donation opportunities. The political class simply lives in a different world than the average American. The louder that the people demand that the political class simply care about the same things we care about, the more tone deaf they seem to become. At some point we have to consider that they are playing us for chumps – even the ones on our “team”.
The system is too short on accountability. We the people are not doing the job of holding our representatives accountable, and they are certainly not making the effort to hold the administration accountable. Bad actions must have consequences if they are to be deterred. The removal of Jeh Johnson, Eric Holder, etc., must be a real possibility if the disapproval of the jobs they are doing is going to have any meaning. Even unelected bureaucrats at the IRS, EPA, etc., have reason to believe that they are immune to accountability. We have a President that acts invincible because he has been given no reason to believe that he is not – leaving us to wonder if the cops charged with holding him accountable are on our side, or his.