According to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, President Obama’s plan to excuse the illegal action of millions of immigrants not unlike Abraham Lincoln’s effort to free slaves. At first I thought it was a joke. And then I remembered two things: Nancy Pelosi is an idiot and has no sense of humor.
In a press conference on November 20, Nancy Pelosi said: “Does the public know that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order? People have to understand how presidents have made change in our country.” She continued: “Remember, President Lincoln said, ‘public sentiment is everything… I wish the Republicans would at least give the public a chance to listen to what the president is trying to do.”
Listening to the people is exactly what the President should do…. Maybe he already forgot, but the election this month can be seen as a complete rejection of his policies. Republicans just won complete control of both the House and Senate for the session that will begin in January. Voters turned out to do what they see as an urgency…. to turn out government leaders who are willing to support the President in his agenda on immigration, healthcare, and more. The urgency in this election was not to grant amnesty to “fix the immigration problem” but to PREVENT the President from doing so.
Perhaps Nancy Pelosi looked to President Lincoln for a new Democratic talking point because, after all, Lincoln was a tyrant and consolidated executive power to act extraordinarily in extraordinary circumstances. But I question whether our current broken immigration situation amounts to an “extraordinary circumstance.” The only reason we have this current immigration problem is because the government has refused to enforce immigration laws, an express enumerated power delegated to it. The government can’t use a crisis of its own making as a reason to invoke unconstitutional powers.
Just because one president overstepped the law doesn’t mean another president should. The people are entitled to a government that is restrained by its charter. The American people are entitled to a government that operates within its boundaries so they can be comforted that government acts consistently, legally, and not in violation of their rights and interests. Nancy Pelosi likes to think that Presidents can define issues as “crises” and thereby usurp power to address them. And then she believes that this type of conduct makes a President “great.” That type of power grab made Adolph Hitler a monster. That type of power grab made Abraham Lincoln a tyrant and gave rise to all-powerful government rather than a subordinate one. Luckily for the government, the party that wins a war has the luxury of writing the history books, providing the talking points, re-writing its reasons for the bloodshed, and demonizing the other side. The admiration the country has for Abraham Lincoln has everything to do with the great debt the government owes to him and how his legacy has been defined.
So, what’s the real story behind the Executive Order? Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. This date was chosen to coincide with the news of the battle at Antietam, near the village of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Antietam is infamously known as being the bloodiest single day of fighting in the Civil War. Although the battle is officially recognized as a stalemate, the North attempted to claim it as their victory. Hence, it would be a perfect time for Lincoln to tie a northern victory with the emancipation of slaves. The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then the Proclamation would go into effect. According to Lincoln, if the slaves were being forced to aid the Confederate war machine, by working in the fields and hauling armaments and building fortifications, he would act in his capacity as commander-in-chief to liberate that labor. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. U.S. Navy General Order No. 4, issued on January 1, 1863 declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” It was issued as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war and as the North continued to watch its defeat at the hands of the South. With the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863, Lincoln decided to go one step further. He would not only to free the slaves outside of Union-controlled areas but also to enlist any black man as a soldier in the Union army. Thus black men could be part of the movement to liberate those in bondage.
The Emancipation Proclamation broadened the goals of the Civil War. While slavery had been a major issue that instigated tensions between the North and the South, Lincoln’s only mission at the start of the war was to keep the Union together. The Proclamation made freeing the slaves an explicit goal of the Union war effort, and was a step toward abolishing slavery and conferring full citizenship upon ex-slaves. But make no mistake, the measure was not inspired by any affection for the slave or any stirring ambition to see them free in white-dominated society. It was a cold calculated initiative to undermine the South. Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of the slaves who were held as property in the South. It encouraged insurrection among the slaves against their white plantation owners (who, at the time, were mostly women and children). It eroded the loyalty and devotion of confederate soldiers because now their attention was torn between the war and between their families at home with this new threat from slaves who are encouraged to undermine the confederate war effort. Furthermore, the sooner the uprising could occur, and the greater the confederate effort could be undermined, the sooner the opportunity for local slaves to be liberated. After January 1, 1863, every advance and victory of federal troops would bring freedom to the slaves in the South. of undermining the confederate effort were almost . After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. And again, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. [By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom].