DYCHE | Obama the Despot - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE | Obama the Despot

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By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

Six years ago, a remarkably prescient political columnist then writing as the token conservative in a large, liberal Louisville newspaper penned a piece titled “Beware of Despotism.” It argued that despotism, defined as “a government or political system in which the ruler exercises absolute power,” was not impossible in modern America.

The column reviewed Plato's argument that well-ordered republics decline into despotism by stages, with democracy being the precursor to tyranny. It reviewed how despotism and the duty to “throw off such Government” were at the heart of the American Revolution.

The anti-democratic aspects of the U. S. Constitution were safeguards against despotism, but many have been changed or faded away in practice. Arguing for the ratification of that Constitution, Alexander Hamilton warned that despots often begin “by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

Despots arose after democratic movements and economic crises in Europe, from the French Revolution and Napoleon to the Weimar Republic and Hitler. Some would have made Franklin Roosevelt a dictator during the Great Depression.

The column suggested that the post-economic meltdown American public was “susceptible to seduction by an intelligent, charismatic leader who, assisted by sympathetic media, has mastered mass psychological manipulation.” It noted the reappearance on the American scene of some familiar features of despotisms past.

They included “huge and highly choreographed party rallies; evocative emblems and imagery; rhythmic chants; children singing the great one's praises; foundational relationships with unrepentant political and religious radicals; an autobiography of struggle authored before any real achievement; an ‘ism' invoked to preemptively deter or defensively demonize critics; and passionate pursuit of unchecked power over all branches of government.”

The column concluded with a warning: “It can happen here. The wisest minds and history warn us. Alarmism is not appropriate. Vigilance is.”

Today, that political prophecy is fulfilled in your hearing by President Obama's announcement of his “executive action” on illegal immigration. After repeatedly declaring that he could not take such action because he was president, not emperor, and that his job was “to execute laws that are passed,” Obama now brazenly crowns himself.

As justification, he says that House Republicans would not vote on an immigration bill that passed the Senate. He does not discuss the fact that Democrats did nothing on immigration during the first two years of his presidency when they controlled both the House and the Senate.

Obama's feeble attempts to compare his expansive amnesty to past actions by Republican Presidents Reagan and Bush fail. They acted pursuant to an immigration law Congress passed and on a drastically smaller scale than Obama does now absolutely on his own.

He takes this action immediately after the American people emphatically repudiated him and his policies in the recent elections. This demonstrates a despot's arrogant disdain for those who put him in power.

It is not Obama's first despotic display. He used a “big lie” (if you like your plan you can keep it) and myriad minor deceptions to pass Obamacare. Once that law was in place, he arbitrarily changed or refused to enforce parts of it, and always for transparently political purposes.

Thanks to the condescending and obnoxious Obama healthcare advisor Jonathan Gruber, we now know what many of us always surmised. Obama and his liberals think the American voter is stupid and that their ends justify almost any means.

The targeting of conservatives by Obama's Internal Revenue Service was another indicator of despotism. So was the dissembling about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. But Obama's executive action on immigration takes this tyrannical trend to a dangerous new level.

Writing in The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus, perhaps America's best liberal columnist, rightly warned that “Democrats should be nervous about the implications for presidential power.” She sought in vain a “limiting principle” that “would constrain future presidents inclined against enforcing other laws with which they don't agree – and on which they've been unable to convince Congress to act accordingly.”

Marcus concluded by saying that “there are compelling humanitarian reasons for Obama to act,” but “the president and his allies must keep in mind: Presidential power, once expanded, is hard to contain.” How right she is, and some sensible Democrats concur.

Other commentators have correctly noted that Congress has been complicit in ceding some of its constitutional powers to the president. Some in Congress, including Kentucky's liberal Louisville congressman John Yarmuth and libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul, have argued for the legislature to assert its prerogatives and reclaim its lost authority.

Perhaps Obama's overreach will help that belatedly happen. But it could also cause things to go the other way, toward an even more expansive assertion of executive power.

Now, perhaps more than ever in our history, the specter of despotism is undeniably a very real threat to American constitutional government. You were warned.

John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is jddyche@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.

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