Chuck Schumer warns Republicans in Congress that if they don’t give the Democrats what they want regarding immigration reform, President Obama will take it anyway.
Excuse me, did I say “will take it anyway”? What Schumer actually said was [emphasis mine]:
If [House Republicans] don’t pass immigration reform [by the August recess], the president will have no choice but to act on his own.
Obama doesn’t want to do it, you see. But he may have to do it, because those darned Republicans will have forced his hand by not cooperating to present him with what he wants. Hey, isn’t that how presidents always operate?
Maybe Schumer thinks Congress should pass an Enabling Act next, although it seems that Obama doesn’t even need one de jure, he has one de facto.
I’m assuming everyone knows what the Enabling Act was, or at least will follow the link if they don’t. But just in case, I thought I’d add this explanation [emphasis mine]:
After being appointed chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933, Hitler asked President von Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag. A general election was scheduled for 5 March 1933.
The burning of the Reichstag six days before the election, depicted by the Nazis as the beginning of a communist revolution, resulted in the Reichstag Fire Decree, which (among other things) suspended civil liberties and habeas corpus rights. Hitler used the decree to have the Communist Party’s offices raided and its representatives arrested, effectively eliminating them as a political force.
Although receiving five million more votes than in the previous election, the Nazis had failed to gain an absolute majority in parliament, depending on the 52 seats won by their coalition partner, the German National People’s Party, for a slim majority.
To free himself from this dependency, Hitler had the cabinet, in its first post-election meeting on 15 March, draw up plans for an Enabling Act which would give the cabinet legislative power for four years. The Nazis devised the Enabling Act to gain complete political power without the need of the support of a majority in the Reichstag and without the need to bargain with their coalition partners.
Note the fact that Hitler never had a majority during his rise to power and his consolidation of power. Note also how he systematically eliminated his opposition through canny use of the law and certain crises (and possibly manufactured crises, at that) to justify his usurpation of power. Note also when you read the next passage how Hitler managed to use a combination of intimidation of and false promises to his opponents, and parliamentary jockeying and procedural rule-changing, in order to get his way. Hitler was both utterly ruthless and politically brilliant at this point in his life:
…[T]he Social Democrats initially planned to hinder the passage of the Act by boycotting the Reichstag session, rendering that body short of the quorum (two thirds) needed to vote on a constitutional amendment. The Reichstag, however, led by its President, Hermann Göring, changed its rules of procedure, allowing the President to declare that any deputy who was “absent without excuse” was to be considered as present, in order to overcome obstructions. Because of this procedural change, the Social Democrats were obliged to attend the session, and committed to voting against the Act. Leaving nothing to chance, the Nazis used the provisions of the Reichstag Fire Decree to detain several SPD deputies. A few others saw the writing on the wall and fled into exile.
Later that day, the Reichstag assembled under intimidating circumstances, with SA men swarming inside and outside the chamber. Hitler’s speech, which emphasised the importance of Christianity in German culture, was aimed particularly at appeasing the Centre Party’s sensibilities…
In the end…the non-socialist parties all voted for the bill, except for two deputies who weren’t present. With the KPD banned and 26 SPD deputies arrested or in hiding, the final tally was 444 in favour of Enabling Act against 84 (all Social Democrats) opposed. The Reichstag had adopted the Enabling Act with the support of 83% of the deputies. However, the atmosphere of that session was so intimidating that even if all SPD deputies had been present, it would have still passed with 78.7% support…
Under the Act, the government had acquired the authority to pass laws without either parliamentary consent or control. These laws could (with certain exceptions) even deviate from the Constitution. The Act effectively eliminated the Reichstag as active players in German politics. While its existence was protected by the Enabling Act, for all intents and purposes it reduced the Reichstag to a mere stage for Hitler’s speeches. It only met sporadically until the end of World War II, held no debates and enacted only a few laws. Within three months after the passage of the Enabling Act, all parties except the Nazi Party were banned or pressured into dissolving themselves, followed on 14 July by a law that made the Nazi Party the only legally permitted party in the country…
Due to the great care that Hitler took to give his dictatorship an appearance of legality, the Enabling Act was renewed twice, in 1937 and 1941. However, its renewal was practically assured since all other parties were banned. Voters were presented with a single list of Nazis and Nazi-approved “guest” candidates under far-from secret conditions.
I challenge anyone to read that without getting a chill up the spine. It unfolds like a Greek tragedy, no less horrible for knowing the plot.
Coming back to the present day, it’s long been clear that President Obama considers that the Constitution, with its checks and balances, offers no real constraint to his usurpation of power. Actually, it never really was the Constitution that prevented previous presidents from doing the same thing—it was their own respect for it, plus the checks and balances offered by integrity-driven members of those presidents’ own parties who would pressure them to do the right thing, and/or a press that would call them on their excesses, and/or voters who would reject them if they violated constitutional constraints. Obama doesn’t have to deal with such things, and that emboldens him.
[ADDENDUM: To the very valid criticism of posts such as this which draw some sort of comparison with Hitler, I offered this response in the comments section, but I thought I’d highlight it here as well.
I know what people mean when they say it is counterproductive to ever use historical analogies to Hitler or Stalin or other tyrants of history when we speak about Obama et.al. My response is that I considered that when I wrote this post, and I consider it whenever I make such analogies, which I have done in the past.
But sometimes there is no other way to make a point about tyranny other than to compare it to other tyrannies. They are not the same, but there are similarities (especially in terms of process), and those similarities heighten the point. If we don’t make such comparisons we trivialize what’s happening. If we do make them we run the risk of sounding crazy.
That’s the dilemma—there seem to be no other choices. Tyranny usually looks fairly innocuous at its beginning. It’s only later on that people realize what they’ve lost. Cassandras are bound to be disbelieved by most people at the outset. That’s just the nature of the thing.]