Coming up on the horizon is a singular moment in American politics, one eagerly beckoned by the citizens but scantly reckoned by their representatives. Everyone has witnessed the dramatic rift playing out in the Republican presidential primary race.
For the last several years, the Republican electorate has been begging elected Republicans to pass a bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. We can all predict the inevitable fate of such an act, if pushed to passage. It will go the Rectangular Desk in the Oval Office where Obama will use the Tubular Pen to veto it with Circular Reasoning: ‘Obamacare was passed to help people so repealing it ipso facto hurts people. Planned Parenthood gives women a particular choice so opposing it for any reason represents an effort to restrict the rights of women.’
More than likely, he will exploit the event to deliver a pseudo-factual report on Obamacare’s spectacular success in meeting and exceeding all its stated goals. He might also bark to the dog whistle by praising Planned Parenthood for defending the dignity of the human being, not the helpless one who gets to die but the ostensibly mature one who gets to kill… or to order a doctor to kill for her.
Politicians, Republicans more than most, disdain to volunteer for this sort of abuse. They do not enjoy flaunting their futility by birthing a baby bill that is doomed for the abortion knife, or the veto pen. Why showcase your powerlessness? Why swim directly at the wall like a dam fool? Better to pretend to be a big shot than to take a shot, to turn up your nose than to bloody it, to act like machers than like schleppers.
The voters differ. They say:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our American dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest Americans.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonor not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in America, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
Or words to that effect. Their reasoning is simple. The purpose of electing representatives is for them to represent our views in legislation. If the Executive Branch uses its veto power to overrule, that is the Constitution in action. The Rule of Law has been observed.
Nothing changes in tangible terms, but there is a real benefit, beyond making a statement. What happens here is that the majority of the nation, through its representatives, has spoken. It has put forth its vision. It has established its priorities. It has communicated that the Legislative Branch is foursquare behind that approach.
The President can choose to exercise a technical power to overrule the will of the people. But he is now exposed as promoting a minority view. The people are saying “Let my babies live!” and Don Veto the Godfather cancels the christening.
There are two clear voices here. We declare victory in the battle for hearts and minds. He gets to declare victory in propping his desk against the door to stop the battering ram. How long will that hold up?
Once we open the case of The People vs. The White House, Republican candidates vying for the White House can first follow the road map to the voter’s doors. Then perhaps one of them can pull the moving van up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and reclaim The People’s House.
Now the Republicans in the House and Senate have finally heard their voters. They have engineered just such a bill. It is important for the same good folks who prodded them long and hard to cheer long and loud when the two Houses finish the job and put this bill on that desk in the White House. Obama can enjoy the veto perk but the popular sentiment can make sure his victory is won at too great a cost to have been worthwhile for the victor.