It’s not democratic intransigence or republican bigotry at the heart of this shutdown. Both are entitled to and justified in their decision to stand their ground. Rather, this current ‘crisis’ is just liberalism at work.
As a brief review of high school civics, wary of taxes or governance without the consent of the people, the founders created a government in opposition to itself. The Executive branch is dependent on Congress to advance its agenda and Congress is vulnerable to a veto. Thus both must cooperate if they want to act. If the people didn’t want it, the government couldn’t do it; if no spending bill is passed, no money is to be spent.
In this case, Trump was elected in 2016 largely for his agenda on immigration after which the people elected a Democratic house largely with the purpose of opposing him. Trump at the head of the executive branch is right to stand his ground, representing his constituents, as are the Democrats in the House. The government was created to oppose itself.
In any stalemate, such as this current one, there is proper recourse. Both branches, if denied, can craft alternative legislation to find middle ground. If that fails, any politician can appeal to the population for votes and thus the power to advance their agenda in the future. These are the two means that the constitution allows through an impasse. The goal, then, is not to search for a loophole in laws and court cases to push an agenda through anyways. Even if the proposed, circuitous action is technically legal, it goes against the power-limiting intent of the constitution.
Obama, who said that “If Congress won’t act, I will,” is the prime example of this Executive overreach. He passed large portions of the DACA legislation without the consent of Congress, entered the Paris Climate accord without the consent of Congress, and, like many before him, issued a slew of constitutionally dubious executive orders to more or less legislate without the consent of Congress. The legality of all these actions can be argued, but collectively they reflect an approach to politics—that the executive should legislate apart from Congress—that runs counter to the original intent of the constitution.
I commend Trump and now both parties for their attempts to offer counter bills, namely Trump’s concession to expand DACA in return for a wall; it is the proper means of negotiation through this shutdown. However, be it legal or not, choosing to declare a state of emergency or appropriate military funds is nothing but the continuation of an anti-liberal precedent that is slowly centralizing executive power. If Trump chooses to follow such a course of action, the courts should deem it unconstitutional or Congress must pass a law checking his power into the future.
The government shutdown is not a crisis. It is not rancor endemic to contemporary American politics. It doesn’t even really have that much of an effect. The true crisis here is the potential for unconstitutional action, be it by Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump, seeking to move beyond the confines of their respective branches. The federal government shutdown is constitutional; unilateral action, regardless of its legality, is not.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.