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The possibility that, in pursuit of building his big, beautiful, stupid wall, the president* will use his power to declare a national emergency in order to hijack money from elsewhere in the federal budget has a lot of people on both sides of the big ideological ditch all het up and sputtering. One of the most common arguments popular on the left and the right is that, by doing this, the president* will be setting a horrible precedent and guarantee that, one day, President Malia Obama will declare a national emergency and make the possession of an internal-combustion engine a capital crime. From the Republicans, this is a horror story. From the Democrats, it's a golden promise. To me, it's completely hilarious.
While President Obama did use some of those powers to fight the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the idea that any current Democratic politician would go whole hog and loot the Defense budget to enact a Green New Deal is positively delusional. To do what the president* is planning to do, you have to have little or no respect for democratic norms and institutions and, if there's one major difference between our two modern political parties, it's that the Democratic Party still has that respect and that the Republican Party lost it years ago, probably when it slid inexorably from being a small-government party to being a no-government party.
Somewhere deep in its timid soul, the Democratic Party and its leaders believe in things like constitutional government, the rule of law, and a whole bunch of other things we all used to take for granted, and on which professional politicians used to depend. Another thing that is unlikely to change is the fact that Democratic politicians firmly believe that the political press is their friend, and that they act like spurned suitors when they find out that isn't true. The prolonged love-hate fandango between the Clintons and The New York Times is probably the most compelling example of this particular phenomenon.
Another example could be found on Friday in Politico, where we discover that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is becoming a cause for concern, and the way we discover this is that her fellow Democrats can't shut up about it.
“She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” said one House Democrat who’s in lockstep with Ocasio Cortez’s ideology. “There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress.”
This person, whoever it may be, is politically idiotic.
First of all, you can be both. Second, AOC hasn't been in Congress for a month yet. Third, that backbenchers-should-be-seen-and-n0t-heard business should've died with Sam Rayburn. The modern model is best exemplified by Newt Gingrich, when he was just a mouthy rookie from Georgia. That there are a number of Democratic congresscritters who still adhere to that obsolete routine is a problem that really needs to be solved. I don't mean to say that I wouldn't take those quotes and run that story myself. But I also don't fool myself that my needs and those of the people I cover are aligned, or that we're all somehow in the good government business together. It's not their job to make my job that easy.
So, no, I don't think a Democratic president would misuse the national-emergency powers the way that this president* seems prepared to do. They're not built that way.
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