"There is no good government but what is republican," John Adams wrote. "(T)he very definition of a republic is 'an empire of laws, and not of men.'" Adams meant that a government in which law is applied at the discretion of powerful people is a bad government. The law must be applied in a straightforward, nonarbitrary fashion or the entire governmental system should be called into question.
This week, the Supreme Court called the entire governmental system into question.
A couple of weeks ago, President Obama unilaterally declared that he would cease to enforce major provisions of federal immigration law. Now he's campaigning on that reckless disregard for the constitutional structure. "You can decide whether it's time to stop denying citizenship to responsible young people just because they were brought here as children of undocumented immigrants," he told an audience in Boston. "I know where I stand on this."
Actually, we can't decide. That's because President Obama decided for us. And when we try to decide for ourselves via state governments, we are told that we're violating the constitutional order.
That's precisely what happened in the Supreme Court's decision about Arizona's SB 1070. Essentially, the Court found that the state of Arizona couldn't enforce immigration law, even if the federal government refused to enforce its own immigration law. By this logic, if the federal government passed a law regarding kidnapping across state lines, then refused to enforce it, a state which decided to arrest people for kidnapping at all would be in violation of the Constitution. As Justice Antonin Scalia put it in dissent, "(T)o say, as the Court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of the Immigration Act that the President declines to enforce boggles the mind."
It does boggle the mind. But not the liberal mind, which is far more interested in placing dictatorial power in the hands of a massive federal government than in preserving the constitutional structure. Every time someone has the gall to mention states' rights, liberals imply that America's just a few steps away from reinstituting slavery; each time somebody has the temerity to suggest that states -- which absorb virtually the entire cost of illegal immigration -- ought to be able to police their own borders when not in conflict with federal law, liberals raise the specter of racial profiling and lynch mobs.
It's sheer nonsense, but it plays into the liberal agenda: maximization of federal power, by any means possible. And the easiest means to maximize federal power is to place unlimited power in the hands of the president of the United States.
There is a danger for liberals, however: What happens if a conservative gains the reins of power? If the executive branch can simply ignore implementation of any law a president doesn't like, how about Obamacare? How about the vast and growing entitlement system?
Liberals don't want to think about this possibility, because theirs is a politics of expedience rather than of principle. While conservatives worry about institutional power, liberals flit from position to position on the issue, depending who is in power. That's a recipe for governmental disaster. Because sooner or later, somebody no one likes will be in power -- and armed with a government free of all checks and balances, he or she will do something truly outrageous. That is, if President Obama hasn't already done so.