The conventional wisdom for the 2016 Presidential Election is that the American people are rebelling against the Washington D.C. establishment and that this is the year of the anti-establishment politician. If only Americans elect political ignoramuses who have no political or governmental experience, then America will be great again! This sounds intelligent until you think about it for a second.
The rhetorically abrasive and cooperatively useless Tea Party is the personification of this political philosophy, and is, as our gridlocked Congress threatens a second government shutdown in two years, an unfortunate legislative reality. Republicans, with their absurd, Obama-must-fail counterrevolution, have thrown Tea Party, anti-establishment wrenches into the governmental works, grinding the cogs of Congress to a halt. The Tea Party opposes any compromising, which, of course, is necessary in our two-party political system, and has turned elected office into a vehicle of performance art, political pop careers.
But the contemporary idea that throwing more wrenches into the stalled Congressional machine will get it running smoothly again is sadly the prevailing theory in the Republican Party, and its field of presidential candidates are struggling to out-anti-establishment each other by seeing who can come up with the worst insults for the government’s competency.
The reality is that the government as a whole is working pretty fine, and it is only in Congress that we see the governmental inaction and incompetence that Republicans routinely and publicly shame. To compensate for the Congressional absurdity, the executive and judicial branches have become more proactive than usual, and both are leading the country forward in the absence of legislative action. Consequently President Obama has been accused of dictatorial, executive overreach while the Judicial Branch has been accused of judicial activism, but neither branch is convincingly guilty of overstepping their Constitutional boundaries or wielding power with anything but careful calculation of legality.
Far from being a dictatorial tyrant, President Obama has been historically restrained in his use of executive orders. According to The American Presidency Project, as of 20 August 2015 Obama had issued only 216 executive orders. Even after projecting for a statistical, final count, it is a smaller number than the executive order count of recent presidents, with George W. Bush issuing 291 executive orders, Bill Clinton issuing 364, and Ronald Reagan issuing 381. A look at the first half of last century shows that executive orders used to be a much more common occurrence, with Teddy Roosevelt issuing 1,081; Woodrow Wilson issuing 1,803; and Franklin Roosevelt issuing a whopping 3,721 executive orders. Not quite a monarch, it could be said that President Obama is leading from behind in the executive order club, and since Teddy Roosevelt only Presidents George Bush, Gerald Ford, and John Kennedy have used less executive orders than Obama, all of whom were single-term presidents.
In the judicial branch of government, a rational observation of the Supreme Court’s decisions – despite Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign grandstanding – shows that the Supreme Court has agreed with Cruz on more controversial cases in recent years than it has disagreed. The fact that the Supreme Court has been accused of judicial activism by both political parties is perhaps a relieving indication of judicial sanity.
So this leaves Congress. When presidential candidates cavalierly remark that the government is broken they mean the bicameral, legislative branch of government made up of the already anti-establishment House of Representatives and the consequently gridlocked Senate. Yes, the House of Representatives is already an anti-establishment institution, and the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party lets everyone know it.
Since the beginning of Obama’s presidency the Congressional fathers of the Tea Party were vocal with their goal to make Obama a single-term president, and to fulfill this goal the Republican Party strategized itself as the Party of No to fight the sudden liberal monopoly of Presidential and Congressional power. They then gamed the eternally breaking-news culture of digital media with a campaign of misinformation regarding everything from the notorious Obamacare death panel myth to even biographical facts such as the President’s place of birth and religion to rile up conservatives with the idea that America was being destroyed from within. Thus, the Tea Party movement was born.
The Tea Party, incubated with indoctrinations of total political war, has tried endlessly to delegitimize the President and his allegedly fascist-socialist-communist Democratic Party. In patriotic opposition to what they viewed incorrectly as executive totalitarianism, the Tea Party invented a somewhat mislabeled political philosophy of libertarianism that promoted, oddly and predictably, non-libertarian views on issues such as foreign policy, gay marriage, religious freedom and drug law reform. A more appropriate classification for the Tea Party’s political ideology would be fascist-libertarianism, or the idea that Americans are free to choose how they want to live (libertarianism) as long as they choose the choices approved by the radical-right Tea Party (fascism). The term Fascist-libertarianism is not an insult or spin, but a calm attempt at scientific analysis.
Because democracy cannot function without compromise, the intransigent Tea Party has even mutinied against its own Republican establishment. In a peculiar example of deliberate political friendly fire, Speaker of the House John Boehner is resigning his leadership position because he has been forced to cave to outrageous Tea Party demands so many times. House delusions have put enormous pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been unsympathetically the lone adult Republican leader attempting bipartisanship with Democrats. We all knew that his campaign promise that Republican Congressional majorities could and would pass bills was Socratically unexamined.
Unfortunately for McConnell, and America at large, the anti-establishment, legislative cancer that is the Tea Party is spreading, and moderate politics may be terminally ill. The fashionable, poll-dominating medical proposal of injecting more cancer cells is not going to help, and there is a tragically real chance that the cancer will spread to the executive and judicial branches if a Republican anti-establishment candidate wins next November.
An anti-establishment president will not fix our supposedly broken government because the anti-establishment is the reason that Congress is broken in the first place. The term “anti-establishment” is used by the Tea Party to refer simply to a candidate who will continue the Tea Party pattern of refusing to compromise and cooperate on anything at all. Inflammatory Tea Party presidential candidates acting as the political equivalent to screaming babies cannot and will not turn Washington into a paradise of utopian governmental competence or legislative action if elected.