When President Obama took office in 2009, his party was in better shape than it had been since the era following Watergate. The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress by very comfortable margins. They had just regained the White House in a historic election. They believed they would control Washington for decades, if not generations, to come. Yet fewer than six years later, their congressional majorities have been annihilated and their prospects for retaining the presidency in 2016 are far less promising than they were just a month ago. Virtually all this devastation has been caused by Obama himself.
Even worse, having destroyed the seemingly invulnerable Democratic citadel, he now seems determined to sow the ground upon which it stood with salt. Most objective observers acknowledge that the resounding defeat the Democrats just received in the midterm elections can be attributed to voter anger concerning Obama’s increasing inclination to behave like an emperor rather than an elected official answerable to the people. Yet after this rebuke he doubled down, defiantly issuing his most egregious edict thus far—an executive order effectively granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Top Democrats in Congress have lent their support to this decree, demonstrating that their midterm drubbing has left them unrepentant.
Three-quarters of the voters oppose executive amnesty, according to one exit poll conducted on Election Day. Yet Obama and his accomplices have repeatedly ignored the will of the people, compounding this offense by disregarding the Constitution. All this has reinforced a lesson that much of the electorate seems able to learn only from years of bitter experience: neither the president nor his party can be trusted to exercise power in a responsible or even legal fashion.
In fact, many Democrats are evidently in denial about what happened to them on November 4. They apparently believe their midterm mugging was the result of lower-than-usual voter turnout. Yes, fewer people vote in midterms than in presidential years, and that has been the case since the 1840s. But turnout was not significantly lower in 2014 than in other midterms, as Michael Medved reports: “The best available figures suggest that 36.6% of eligible voters bothered to cast their ballots…very slightly less than the 37.1% that turned out in 2006, the last time the Democrats swept a midterm election.”
In reality, Obama’s lawlessness and the acquiescence of congressional Democrats has convinced the electorate that the GOP should hold the reins of power in Washington—a result that Republicans were unable to achieve on their own. Equally ominous for the Democrats, the president’s hubris has united the often fractious GOP factions, a feat that many thought would require divine intervention. That Tea Partiers joined with establishment Republicans on Election Day to save candidates like Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is a development whose importance is difficult to exaggerate.
There are a few Democrats who seem to have awakened to the danger that Obama presents to their party if he continues to ignore the will of the voters. As Josh Kraushaar writes in the National Journal, “President Obama’s biggest problem over the next two years may not be coming from recalcitrant Republicans, but from members of his own party blanching at his activist agenda over the final two years of his presidency.” These Democrats, unlike Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, believe that the left-wing agenda the president seems determined to pursue will have an adverse effect on their party’s “long-term health.”
And it isn’t merely congressional majorities in play. Kraushaar goes to point out that the president’s agenda isn’t likely to be very helpful to their 2016 presidential nominee: “Hillary Clinton now has to worry about the political implications of Obama’s final two years…Obama’s team insists they’re doing Hillary Clinton a favor with their ploys to excite the base before the next presidential election. She doesn’t seem to see things the same way.” She is right to be concerned. If Obama proceeds apace, no Democrat will have prayer of winning the presidency in 2016.
There is no chance, of course, that the president will moderate his positions voluntarily. And the Democrats who hope he will do so have failed to learn the primary lesson of his presidency: Obama is in it for his legacy. He was willing to sacrifice many of their colleagues to get Obamacare passed, and he is willing sacrifice the survivors of 2010 and 2014 to impose the rest of his vision on the nation. Indeed, Obama is not only willing to consign his fellow Democrats to the political wilderness, he is content to poison our political system and sacrifice the nation’s domestic tranquility on the altar of his solipsism.
Who has the power to stop the president from behaving like a Manchurian candidate programmed by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner? Only the Democrats themselves. If they want to survive, they will have to join with Republicans and get this megalomaniac under control. That means reclaiming the congressional prerogatives Obama has hijacked. If the Democrats fail to realize this and thus refuse to rein in Obama’s authoritarian conduct, they may wake up one morning to discover that their party has gone the way of the Whigs.