We've talked a lot about anger during this presidential campaign season.
That anger is by and large the outcome of a large segment of the citizenry's feeling utterly helpless in the face of growing government encroachment into their lives. So, why don't they elect representatives who come to Washington and change things?
Well, they often do the first part. They elect the people they believe in but change doesn't happen. And citizens feel–rightly–that their views are not represented. Maybe this is because the legislating authority of Congress has been so usurped that our representatives can no longer represent us as we would wish?
Republican Reps. Mike Lee of Utah and Jeb Hensarling of Texas seem to be saying something similar to this in a must-read article at NRO. They write:
The stability and moral legitimacy of America’s governing institutions depend on a representative, transparent, and accountable Congress to make its laws. For years, however, Congress has delegated too much of its legislative authority to the executive branch, skirting the thankless work and ruthless accountability that Article 1 demands and taking up a new position as backseat drivers of the republic.
So today, Americans’ laws are increasingly written by people other than their representatives in the House and Senate, and via processes specifically designed to exclude public scrutiny and input. This arrangement benefits well-connected insiders who thrive in less-accountable modes of policymaking, but it does so at the expense of the American people — for whose freedom our system of separated powers was devised in the first place.
In short, we have moved from a nation governed by the rule of law to one governed by the rule of rulers and unelected, unaccountable regulators. Congress’s abdication, unsurprisingly, has led to a proliferation of bad policy and to the erosion of public trust in the institutions of government. Distrust, also unsurprisingly, is now the defining theme of American politics.
For conservatives, Congress’s dereliction represents something of a crisis. First, because conservatives believe in constitutionalism as a bulwark of freedom and justice in our society. And second, because the transfer of lawmaking power from Congress to the executive branch tends to thwart the kinds of policies that conservatives often advocate — namely those that limit the size, ambitions, and influence of the federal government.
President Obama has made enormous strides in abrogating to himself authority not traditionally belonging to the presidency, but this started before him. And I think this is a lot of the source of the electorate's anger: they see that we no longer have a fully functioning Congress and know that any petty bureaucrat could come along at any time and force us to obey regulations that Congress never passed.
Will you indulge me? I was reading a book about French kings the other day and re-encountered the infamous lit de justice. When parliament didn't give the French king what he wanted, he simply sat on a bed (the lit) and decreed what parliament had failed to give him.
I don't know if Louis XIV said, "We can't wait!" when decreeing from the lit, but I do know that President Obama has often used that rationale to ignore Congress.
We will watch our system of government deteriorate beyond recognition, if we are not careful (and part of this being careful is intelligently channelling our anger).