Civil disobedience is the act of breaking the law and defying the authorities to do anything about it. So is tyranny. The difference between the two lies in which side of the power equation the breaker is on. When the law is broken, two things happen. Either the law is upheld or the authorities back away from a confrontation and find some way to save face.
The ObamaCare process involved breaking a long list of rules and laws and then defying the ragged remnants of the system to do anything about it. At every turn the United States was unable to stop a rogue chief executive and his ruling party from trampling the law. When the case finally reached the Supreme Court, the leading judicial body in the land sidestepped a confrontation by redefining what the action was, rather than rule on the law. It was a classic case of the authorities saving face.
Civil disobedience balances moral absolutes against legal principles. The Supreme Court exists to serve as the final bastion of the law against runaway moral absolutes. But just as in its showdown with FDR, the Court blinked, and our court, unlike that court, didn’t even at least put up a good fight for the law before backing down. Obama didn’t even have to threaten to pack the court with justices. All he had to do was make it clear that he wasn’t going to follow the law, which forced the law to save face by following him instead.
The American chief executive has a great deal of power and a chief executive who dons imperial robes is a danger with few precedents. There have been conflicts between the branches, but even FDR made a pretense of bowing to some outside authority. Obama never has, with the exception of the King of Saudi Arabia.
If he were to be impeached tomorrow, as some urge, he simply wouldn’t leave. I don’t know what he will do if he loses the election, simply because I don’t think he knows what he will do– I don’t think the prospect of losing has seriously entered his mind. If he loses it will be a pitched battle between Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama on one shoulder telling him to stay and Joe Biden and whatever unfortunate soul is Chief-of-Staff at that point acting as the voices of reason telling him that it’s over.
Even absolute monarchs make concessions to something outside themselves, to religion or tradition, but Obama never has. History, religion and tradition are nothing but lines that he drops into speeches in praise of himself. The American flag and the Constitution are trophies that he uses as backdrops, the same way that he uses greek columns– these aren’t things that mean anything to him. They’re decorations for the sets playing the eternal movie of him.
Obama is not a politician. Politicians learn to compromise. They learn that they can’t always get their way. Obama has never learned that lesson. He always gets his way. Or he did until 2010. No one has ever told him “No” and made it stick. There is no weight of life experience that tells him what to do when this happens.
Unlike many of his predecessors, Obama was never in the military. Unlike all of them, he never held anything resembling a real job that required him to do anything but show up and make speeches. Children are natural tyrants. Take a child throwing a tantrum off the playground, give him every privilege in life, leave out any real challenges, keep telling him that he’s special for 50 years and he will be an actual tyrant.
No one ever thought that a man with the emotional maturity of a child, with no life experience and no principles, would occupy the White House, surrounded by sycophants and worshiped by a press that acts as an extension of the White House Press Office. It took an extensive breakdown among multiple institutions and the national culture for that to happen, and the inability to assert the rule of law is a further symptom of that breakdown.
No one is fooled, unless to some degree they want to be fooled. To believe a lie, you have to want to believe it, and that means that at some level, you know that it is a lie.