Quick – can you guess who I’m describing here?
He campaigned against financial mismanagement, and the “harsh realities” of global capitalism. He pledged during his campaign to end corruption in both the government and the private sector.
After being elected President, he claimed that he had “inherited” the worst economic situation in recent history and then went about consolidating his power. Once privately-owned enterprises were “restructured” into government owned entities, some even organized into workers’ cooperatives.
Unemployment remained painfully high, even as the much-celebrated “reform” measures were being implemented. As private sector workers suffered with worsening economic conditions, government employees enjoyed the comforts of steady work and benefits while the President and other policy makers sought increasing control over the nation’s privately-owned wealth.
Does this seem like a description of the Obama Presidency? Certainly this depicts, at least in part, what we’ve experienced in the U.S. since the earliest days of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.
But - believe it or not - this is actually a description of the ascendency of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. In fact, you could call this a “textbook case.” I’ve paraphrased a bit for the sake of column space, but this description of Chavez appears in “International Business: Competing In The Global Marketplace,” a text book currently used among M.B.A. students at many of America’s top graduate business schools.
Chavez became the democratically elected President of Venezuela in 1998, a decade before Barack Obama was elected to be our President. And the reason Chavez has been able to morph in to a dictator – he has successfully seized control over privately owned banks, tv stations, farms and gold holdings, to name a few items – and the reason he is still in power today, is because the first thing he did after taking office in 1999 was to substantively change his country’s constitution and re-arrange the nation’s judiciary.
The fact that one man could so quickly seize control of the entire country of Venezuela, probably speaks to some relative weaknesses in that nation’s constitution. And the fact that no U.S. President – not even Barack Obama – has seized this type of control over America, speaks to the relative strengths of both our U.S. Constitution itself, and the separation of powers among our three branches of government that are stipulated by our Constitution.
With so much of our individual liberty resting on the foundation of the U.S. Constitution – and yet with most of human history having been littered with not-so-benevolent dictators like Chavez – we should both expect that powerful leaders will want to overreach in to our lives, and be vigilant to call fowl when they do. Unfortunately, it seems that most Americans are shocked by President Barack Obama’s contemptuous remarks about the Supreme Court last week, as the court review his signature “healthcare reform” law. Worse still, it seems that very few Americans recognize the President’s behavior is problematic.
Of course, President Obama is not the first White House occupant to desire more power than the Constitution allows. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, angered when the Supreme Court overturned some of his “new deal” (read “big government”) programs that he believed were unquestionably necessary to save the country, famously began maligning the Justices of the Supreme Court, publicly labeling them the “9 Old Men.” And as a means of overcoming the “separation of powers” obstacle, he proposed to “reform” that old, antiquated Supreme Court system by adding up to six new justices – justices that he could select and appoint!
Of course, FDR didn’t get his way. The Congress rejected his court reform legislative proposal, and the American people took a dim view of Roosevelt trying to circumvent the Constitution.
But that was the America of 1937. Today, it’s not difficult to imagine that President Obama could curry the favor of millions of Americans, if he chose to campaign against the Justices who may vote to overturn his all-important “Obamacare” law.
Who would stand with Obama in this type of Constitution-bending effort? Start with the entire AFL-CIO. Then add the entire “occupy” movement, and the burgeoning “99% Spring” uprising, and the prevailing powers of the Democrat Party. Put them all together, and you’ve got a critical mass of Americans who neither care nor understand a wit about history, “limited government,” the U.S Constitution, or the Separation of Powers. They want “stuff” – “free” healthcare, education, or whatever – and they want raw power in Washington to deliver that stuff, and to do so by whatever means.
“9 old men.” That pejorative description wouldn’t apply with the makeup of today’s Supreme Court. But we should all prepare for President Obama to take direct aim at, say, 5 or 6 “old” white men – men who are too strictly adhering to an old Constitution that was written by old white men – should the Supreme Court dare to think differently about the President’s healthcare reform law. And the President’s party won’t dare to question this tactic. But who will?