For centuries the United States has been the envy of the world. That’s why we have an immigration problem. People from other nations want to be part of this grand experiment. This was mostly true in the 19th and 20th century when we didn’t have a burgeoning welfare system.
Dictators hated our limited government. They wanted to be autocrats – self-governors. Mao Zedong made it clear that political power grew out of the barrel of a gun. It was his gun and millions died. We’ve seen 52 years of Fidel’s rule in Cuba. North Korea is an economic basket case.
Then there are the dictators in the Middle East. The overthrow of one dictator only makes room for a new one.
The people who have had to live under these oppressive regimes have always looked to the United States for some direction, a vision of hope in a sea of despair. Not anymore.
President Obama is spewing the rhetoric of an autocrat. Ruling by Executive Order is the work of a dictator:
“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.”
“And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”
President Obama may have been joking with French President François Hollande when they were touring Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson, when Obama broke protocol by walking out on a terrace to look at the landscape and said, “We’re breaking protocol here. That’s the good thing about being president, I can do whatever I want.” His actions with Executive Orders and changing laws on the fly indicate that he is not joking.
Foreign leaders are watching. If an elected United States president can do this with the restraining authority of the Constitution that he took and oath to uphold, with more than 500 elected representatives allowing him to rule by political fiat, and with no push back from the media that supports him in his unconstitutional actions, then there’s no stopping a foreign dictator from doing the same. If Americans accept autocratic rule, then it’s OK. Vive la révolution.
Like any good autocrat, Obama is doing it “for the people.” It’s always for the people until the people become cannon fodder for grander causes.
In fact, it’s already happening.
“[S]ome opportunistic leaders have used the political legitimacy of a popular vote to abuse power, enrich allies, and annihilate the opposition. They’ve won over rural and low-income voters with populist rhetoric and economic enticements. As a result, middle-class elites, who during the Cold War might have pushed back against their authoritarian rulers, are leading demonstrations to topple elected leaders who don’t always look out for their economic interests. Yes, urban voters are appalled by how autocrats have amassed personal power—but that concern is equaled by the less noble realization that the rural populace has become a rival threatening their political and economic clout.”1
What could the rise of autocratic rule mean internationally far beyond what we are seeing at this moment? Endless conflicts. More wars. A disruption in services and goods since we are now in a global market.
“The rollback of democracy could even lead to regional conflicts. ‘Authoritarian states, including China and Russia, show no hesitation in bullying their neighbors and increasing repression at home,’ says Freedom House President David Kramer. Many of the same nations where democracy is floundering and instability is growing also sit astride the most dangerous political fault lines, in the Middle East, the South China Sea, and elsewhere. It turns out democracy has been a boon to autocratic leaders around the world.”
And President Obama has shown that it’s OK to be a bully, and if it’s OK for Obama to bully the American people, then why is it wrong for other regimes to bully their people and their neighbors?
- Joshua Kurlantzick, “The Rise of Elected Autocrats Threatens Democracy,” Business Week, (January 23, 2014). [↩]