In a recent interview, President Obama reiterated his intention to bypass Congress to pursue his extreme policy agenda. That’s not in itself news; it’s been going on in every area of federal policy (as I discuss in detail in Democracy Denied) and the president has been boasting about it for months in his country-wide “we can’t wait” campaign. The notable thing this time around is that Obama offered his plan to bypass our elected representatives in Congress as an explicit re-election strategy.
The interviewer, Rob Quirk of KOAA-TV, asked Obama what it would take to win reelection. Obama’s reponse: “Well, what we’re going to have to do is continue to make progress on the economy over the next several months. And where Congress is not willing to act, we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves.”
In other words, the Obama election strategy for election 2012 is to act as if election 2010 never happened, disregard the Republicans in Congress, and put the full force of the federal executive apparatus to work towards his reelection.
For months Obama has been out on the stump campaigning on the taxpayer dime, a trend that is almost certain to accelerate. He hits the ground running in 2012 with a statewide tele-townhall in Iowa and a major campaign-style event in Ohio. Ironically, these events are presented as pushing a legislative agenda in Congress, the very same Congress the president has already declared irrelevant. Their real purpose is entirely political.
Obama is also abusing the appointments process to install ideologically radical nominees to advance his bypass-Congress reelection strategy. Although Congress has remained in pro forma session to prevent recess appointments since the 2010 election, Obama recently announced that he would dispense with over a hundred years of precedent and declare Congress to be in recess; that’s right, the president now believes he can rewrite Senate rules. On January 4, Obama unilaterally rewrote Senate rules and installed Richard Cordray as the head of the vast new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bureau can now begin regulating every aspect of our financial lives without any congressional oversight (unless courts invalidate the “recess appointment.”)
Obama may also use his newly created power to “recess appoint” when Congress is not in recess to install radical union lawyers in a court-packing scheme at the National Labor Relations Board, allowing it to continue rewarding the unions with a bureaucratic rewrite of the nation’s labor laws. Shortly before the end of last year the Board – before the term expired for Obama’s previous recess appointee, union lawyer Craig Becker – voted to allow unions to ambush employers with organizing elections with as little as seven days notice.
Obama may make dozens of other controversial appointments in this manner, making a mockery of the Constitution’s advice and consent requirement to fill the federal courts and agencies with radicals who could never withstand Senate scrutiny, even with his own party controlling the Senate.
Regardless of how many more radicals Obama can slip into key positions, Obama knows that to win reelection he needs to recapture the sense of historical excitement that surrounded the 2008 campaign. So he will put the full weight of the federal executive branch into advancing the key policy objectives of the constituencies that will provide him boots on the ground: unions, environmentalists, social justice street organizers, identity politics groups, and class warriors.
Key rewards and inducements for the environmental groups include a head-spinning array of expensive regulations from EPA, an all-out government-wide assault on hydraulic fracturing, and continued slowdowns in permitting and leasing from the EPA and the Interior Department. Also worth watching is a proposed Endangered Species Act listing of the so-called Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, which until recently was just an ordinary lizard, but may now become a “unique subspecies” whose listing would devastate oil production in West Texas.
Obama’s executive decisions will continue to display his choice of a rigid far-left ideology over practical considerations. He will again block the Keystone XL pipeline, a decision he is required to re-issue within 60 days under the terms of the payroll tax holiday extension bill that passed before the end of the year. That privileges a radical anti-development ideology above job creation, in the hopes of inspiring the green groups and the campus protest crowd to come out and volunteer again for Obama with some of the passion they brought in 2008. The Energy Department will continue funding green jobs boondoggles like Solyndra.
Similarly, the administration successfully torpedoed the AT&T merger with T-Mobile, which had major concessions to the unions with respect to job creation that earned their support and promised to unleash tens of billions of dollars in private investment. That was a sop to the extreme left so-called media reform movement, which was also rewarded with the FCC’s so-called net neutrality order to begin – unlawfully, courts will likely find – to regulate broadband Internet access. The FCC is now considering a proposal that amounts to the DISCLOSE Act via backdoor means, requiring all political ad buys to disclose their donors to stations who would in turn make the information public.
The Justice Department will continue attempts to demonize and hamper state-level voter ID requirements to inspire and facilitate the ACORN-successor entities that are carrying the Obama campaign’s voter registration and turnout efforts.
ObamaCare implementation will move forward in the same arbitrary and politicized fashion that abuses regulations and guidance documents from the IRS and HHS to punish political enemies with expensive interpretations that have no statutory basis and reward political allies with waivers.
And the costs associated with all the expensive, politically-motivated executive action will be used as a pretext to attack affected companies for raising prices, further stoking the president’s class warfare campaign theme that inspires the fringe elements of the Occupy Wall Street movement to fold their efforts into the campaign.
In brief, the entire multi-trillion dollar bureaucratic apparatus of the federal government will be directed towards Obama’s reelection. Unfortunately, these executive actions will have serious negative economic consequences in terms of compliance costs and the broad uncertainty and anxiety that comes from not knowing what arbitrary decisions will come next. That’s terrible news for our economic recovery, and it may also mean that the Obama strategy will backfire politically with an electorate that’s desperate for job creation and economic growth.