The Prince of Orange Wields His Pen

Over the weekend, John Boehner ascended the venerable soapbox that is CNN.com to make the case for suing President Obama. The title of his op-ed, “Why We Must Sue the President,” reflects the idea that this lawsuit represents some sort of solemn obligation that House Republicans can hardly avoid. While there can be little doubt that Boehner sincerely believes that Obama has overstepped his authority, there is also little doubt that the Speaker knows this case is a political charade. Unfortunately, this latest invented crisis will cost taxpayer money, widen partisan divisions (if that’s possible) and plunge the country into another bitter political controversy.

The specifics of Boehner’s lawsuit are unknown, as his piece offered only vague charges that the President is “creating his own laws, and excusing himself from enforcing statutes he is sworn to uphold.” Presumably, this is a reference to Obama’s use of executive orders, which are frequently cited by conservatives as an example of his tyrannical rule. Executive orders, however, have been widely used by virtually every president since George Washington, and Obama has issued them at a slower pace than any president since Grover Cleveland. Although the constitution does not explicitly mention the executive order, the courts have upheld their use in several cases, and it is an executive power well within the boundaries of American political tradition.

One point Boehner fails to mention is that Obama’s alleged usurpation of legislative power comes at a time when the House has all but sworn off legislative action. Traditionally, the House is supposed to be a functional part of the U.S. government. Under the leadership of Boehner and his unruly Tea Party cadres, the house has continually distinguished itself through its inaction. Boehner to be jealously guarding a power he is determined not to use unless the platform of his party is enacted in uncompromised entirety. Given the fact that 66 million people voted for President Obama and his platform in 2012, this is a rather unreasonable expectation.

Beyond the platitudes about defending the constitution and legislative power, there is little substance in Boehner’s argument, and occasional hints at the political reasons for this measure. After charging that “the President has circumvented the American people and their elected representatives”, Boehner goes on to note that efforts by the House to address this problem have failed to pass the Senate. It seems odd that Boehner is circumventing the democratically-elected representatives in the Senate to sue the democratically-elected president in order to prevent the circumvention of elected representatives. Don’t bother trying to find the logic here, this is a political calculation.

 

Chris McDaniel and the Inconvenience of Democracy

Thad Cochran’s victory last night in Mississippi’s bitterly contested Republican Senate primary might be seen by some as the legitimate outcome of a democratic voting process. To Chris McDaniel, however, it is an affront to liberty, the principles of Reagan, conservative values, the sanctity of the vote, and a variety of other hallowed principles. One might think that a self-proclaimed champion of freedom such as McDaniel would yield graciously to the will of the people but, in light of the fact that they hadn’t supported him, he declined to concede and insistently told his supporters “we were right tonight.” Unfortunately, the majority of the voters evidently weren’t informed of the righteousness of his cause and gave the nod to Thad Cochran. Displeased with the outcome of the democratic process, McDaniel vowed to fight on against his own party, and the injustice visited upon him by the voters of his own state.

The primary cause of McDaniel’s rage seems to be the suspicion that Cochran had won by getting Democratic voters to support him in the Republican primary. Unfortunately for McDaniel, this practice is completely legal. While a voter cannot vote in both the Democratic and Republican primary, they can vote in whichever one they choose. Although there is a vague provision in Mississippi election law stating that a person isn’t eligible to participate in a particular primary “unless he intends to support the nominations made in the primary in which he participates,” this is completely unenforceable. How exactly would the government go about policing voter intent? The reality, which McDaniel definitely refuses to acknowledge, is that this relatively open primary system is an accepted part of Mississippi politics, which McDaniel should know since he himself has voted in Democratic primaries. Cochran was able to expand the electorate, buck historic trends by increasing turnout in a primary run-off, and did so in accordance with relevant election laws.

Determined not go down peacefully or graciously, McDaniel took the stage on election night to denounce the outrage committed by the voters of Mississippi. Declaring that the GOP is “not the party of Reagan”, he decried the scandalous politics that had led to his defeat. “We have to be absolutely certain,” he intoned, “that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters.” While McDaniel would certainly have better chances if he were able to pick and choose the voters, this was not an election restricted solely to Republicans. Mississippi doesn’t even require party registration in the first place. Evidently seeing Cochran’s efforts to convince people to vote for him as some betrayal of democracy, he deplored these nefarious tactics, saying Cochran had won by “once again compromising. By once again reaching across the aisle. By once again abandoning the conservative movement.” Assured of the righteousness of his cause, McDaniel seemed comfortable in his contempt of the 191,000 voters who had exercised their democratic right that evening and opposed his candidacy.

McDaniel can manufacture outrage over the outcome of the election, but the reality is that Cochran ran a better campaign over the past three weeks and convinced a majority of voters, be they Democrats or Republicans, to vote for him. This is not an affront to the democratic process; this is the democratic process. Chris McDaniel seems to think he was entitled to a Senate seat because he attracted the support of one wing of one party. Perhaps he should take a page from Cochran’s playbook and realize that elections are rarely won by exclusion.