Frank Donatelli: What Part of the Constitution Do Liberals Still Support?


With every passing day, President Obama uses his pen and his phone to expand his power and unilaterally change immigration, health care, energy, and tax laws. These actions have met with the approval of liberals everywhere. This is not a new attitude. Liberals have always been in favor of the “imperial presidency” from Roosevelt to Johnson to Obama, conveniently skipping Richard Nixon, of course. Liberal scholars have long championed the need of chief executives to meet modern exigencies as defined by liberal priorities—so long as a Democrat was in the White House.

Curiously, while liberals believe the chief executive can unilaterally modify laws passed by Congress, they do not accept many constitutional limits on Congress’ legislative jurisdiction. The Constitution specifically delegates certain enumerated powers to the legislative branch, yet the last Congress run by Democrats governed as if it had plenary powers to legislate on any topic. Who can forget the bemused look of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she was asked to state the specific congressional power that authorized Obamacare? So while Congress can legislate on any topic, their actions are subject to unilateral revision by the chief executive.

Of course, in the liberals’ telling, the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over any of this. The court should not review anything Congress does—even on a straight, party-line vote—because there are no limits on congressional authority. Also, according to the Justice Department, the high court has no power to rule on any of Obama’s unilateral actions, either. The justices might as well take permanent vacations given this view of judicial review. Is there just a whiff of self-interest in this theory of separation of powers?

However, what is most radically different about the Obama liberals’ interpretation of the Constitution is its neutering of the Bill of Rights. To be sure, liberals never had much good to say about the Second, Ninth and 10th Amendments, but now they’re striking at other amendments, even those they once revered.