J. Christian Adams, a former attorney with the Department of Justice, makes an interesting comparison in advance of President Obama’s expected Executive Order that would unilaterally rewrite our nation’s immigration laws. Writing at PJMedia, he argues that Obama has adopted the logic of John C. Calhoun, the antebellum South Carolina US Senator and vice-president to Andrew Jackson, that the states can nullify federal laws they disagree with.
Back then in the 1830s, President Jackson vigorously opposed Calhoun’s theory of nullification, and the resulting crisis almost lead to civil war. Now, Adams argues, instead of upholding the law as he is constitutionally bound, President Obama is about to claim the power of nullification for himself:
In announcing a lawless amnesty edict tonight, President Obama is our modern John C. Calhoun.
Elementary school civics class has taught the same thing for two hundred years: Congress makes the laws, the president enforces the laws, the judiciary interprets the laws. The reason this is so is because individual liberty thrives when government is hobbled by division of power. People live better lives when federal power is stymied.
When President Obama announces that he will be suspending laws to bless the illegal presence of millions of foreigners in the United States, he will have adopted the most basic philosophy of John C. Calhoun: some laws can be tossed aside because his ends justify the lawlessness.
Adams also compares Obama to King Charles I, who lost his throne (and his head) in a fight over power with the English Parliament. Others have made that same comparison, seeing the parallels in the struggle between the legislature and the Crown/Executive in 1640, 1689, and 1776. Now we’re in 2014, and another executive is declaring himself superior to the legislature, to have the power to act when it won’t do his will.
The question is, what will the legislature do in return to preserve the constitutional order?
I wish I knew.