Since President-elect Donald Trump made clear he plans to personally strong-arm American companies into doing what he wants — and American companies, in turn, promptly realized they have a convenient new way to exact special, crony capitalist favors from Washington — the Republican Party has fallen in line with the Trump team’s antagonism toward the free market with remarkable speed.
As I reported yesterday, already polling finds Republicans, who traditionally cast themselves as defenders of unrestricted capitalism, are more likely than Democrats to say the free market has been bad for America. Some 57 percent said they agree with Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s assertion that “the free market has been sorting it out and America’s been losing.”
But if the GOP isn’t troubled by Trump’s authoritarian approach to outsourcing on economic grounds, perhaps constitutional problems will raise some eyebrows.
Writing at the Library of Law & Liberty this week, political scientist Greg Weiner of Assumption College persuasively made the case that Trump’s Carrier deal and similar deals to come run badly afoul of the Constitution by furthering the gross imbalance of power that has developed between the executive and legislative branches.
Weiner quotes Trump saying that it doesn’t matter whether people believe his negotiations with companies are “presidential” because “I actually like doing it,” then writes:
On what authority is the President of the United States pressuring, which is to say intimidating, the leaders of private enterprise to determine where goods are made and sold?
Answer: sheer personal will. “I actually like doing it.” […]
In this as in other matters, Trump’s actions represent the culmination, not the repudiation, of those of his predecessor, who, among other strong-arm moves, used executive orders to muscle federal contractors into raising their minimum wages. This anti-constitutional authority concentrated in the person of the President illustrates exactly why the separation of powers, and the resurrection of Congress, are so essential. They are what prevent the rule of a Caesar who is more dangerous for the popular fuel on which he draws.
Read the rest of his argument here.
As Weiner concludes, a country in which the president “can act not on a constitutional warrant but rather because he or she ‘actually like[s] doing it’ is one in which the rule of law has begun to corrode,” and it will not end with prevention of outsourcing.
Now that they are in power, Republicans can be expected to grow more comfortable with big government — as the ruling party in America always does. But if the Carrier deal is any indication of what we can expect from the Trump administration going forward, even a victorious GOP may find this fresh trampling of the rule of law is a step too far.
The question is whether that realization will come too late to undo it.