While the poisonous bitterness and class and racial hatred sown by President Obama over the last eight years will be with us for a long time, the president's vaunted "fundamental transformation" of America, at least in several key aspects, is built upon quicksand.
Obamacare, the president's legacy healthcare reform, is disintegrating before our very eyes, pulled down by its own weight. Executive orders, meanwhile, which have been President Obama's preferred form of governing, don't have the force of law made by the legislative branch. What one president does with one pen, the next can take away with a new pen.
The Obama administration has been one kick in the gut after another for those who believe in checks and balances as designed by the Founders and the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights. We've seen nuns ordered by the government to pay for contraception, an intrinsic evil in Catholic teaching; Christian florists told that they must violate their consciences, or pay ruinous fines; and an IRS that abuses its power for political purposes (but which an etiolated Congress is seemingly powerless to call to account).
What becomes evident--perhaps too late--is that all these fundamental changes rest on a fragile foundation because of the way they were instituted and could be fixed more easily than we had imagined: Yes, it will take years to remind the public and our cumbersome administrative branch that certain executive orders don't have the force of law and to ensure that they are not allowed to linger long enough to gain a kind of permanence. And it will be in the next presidency will at last determine the fate of the nation's health care system for a long time to come.
Obamacare may or may not have been engineered to fail and thus serve as the prelude to a single-payer system. That we don't know. But we do know that it was doomed to fail because of the way it was passed (without even talking to the other side to achieve any sort of bipartisan buy-in) and because central planning never works. Obamacare comes tumbling down ahead of schedule and conveniently just in time for Hillary Clinton, who failed to get a single-payer system in 1993, to have another whack at it.
Republicans have come up with all sorts of creative ideas for a market-oriented health care reform that would give more citizens access to good medical care (as opposed to an insurance card that unfortunately too often can't be used for an actual timely appointment).
But the next president, just as the current one, will have the ability to bottle up reform because of the veto power. Thus, without the White House, conservatives will find it hard, if not impossible, to give the final heave-ho to a health system that is incredibly shaky. Instead, the country will face the distinct possibility of a a fully government-run health system. Repealing and replacing Obamacare--it could have been easy, given how badly it has worked.
Religious liberty has come under attack in the last eight years in a way that is foreign to American law and tradition. Like Obamacare, this would be a blip--an aberration--if an administration less hostile to religion (specifically, traditional Christianity) were to supplant the Obama administration. The Daily Caller had this dilly of a quote from the next likely occupant of the White House: “And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed,” she averred, when they come in conflict with pro-abortion laws and taxpayer-funded contraception. Wikileaks exposed emails that demonstrate just how deeply Clinton campaign insiders regard Catholicism as backward.
And people wonder why Christians have latched onto a guy who makes unfunny jokes about being a carpenter's son at the Alfred Smith Dinner in a room full of Catholics! It's for a simple reason: Uncouth to be sure, but Trump very likely would have ended the institutional hostility to religion and religious people. It wouldn't have been that hard.
The run amok bureaucracy, while not quite so easy to tame, would at least feel the heat if a president less friendly to big government and big bureaucracy came into office. Do you think that the IRS would gotten away with its targeting of conservatives if it had not had friends in very high places who were not in the least offended by such illegal actions?
The Supreme Court several times checked President Obama's overreaches. The next president will appoint several additional justices and it is highly unlikely that these justices will check presidential overreach, allowing the damage done by this president to become forever entrenched.
It's disheartening that conservatives seemed unable to see this. So demoralized by the constant flaying of our causes of limited government and traditional rights, we failed to realize how fragile the president's revolution was--and act accordingly.
Unlike President Obama, who studied the Constitution, and thus was adept in knowing how to get around it, Donald Trump is untutored in that document. He has demonstrated that his knowledge of checks and balances also leaves something to be desired. And yet--ironically--he is the only bulwark against making the Obama Revolution, if not permanent, of very long duration. It's a hell of a fix for the world's greatest democracy.