The fundamental thing that distinguishes the United States from everywhere else in the world is our collective commitment to our Constitution. What does that mean? It’s not a long or complex document. It defines the structure of the government (legislative, executive, judicial), and lays out a series of rights in the first ten amendments. But most fundamentally, it provides for an electoral process for selecting our legislative and executive officials. Commitment to the Constitution means accepting the results of the elections, and the subsequent peaceful transfer of power. During my entire life up to now, that has been how it worked. Now, not so much.
Admittedly, the acceptance of the exercise of the governmental powers by the electoral winners took a while to get to the recent effective unanimity. Students’ of some of the more obscure corners of American history may be familiar with the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 (an armed uprising against federal authority during George Washington’s second term), or with the convention of New England states held in Hartford during the winter of 1814/15 to consider secession in light of the hardships of the War of 1812. And then of course, there was the Civil War in the 1860s, precipitated by the election of a President from the newly-formed anti-slavery Republican Party, and the attempted secession from the union of a group of states in the interim between Lincoln’s election and inauguration. But the very bloody Civil War really put an end to these things, at least for about a century and a half.
Consider ten years ago, when Barack Obama was elected President. I disagreed with around 90% of what this guy stood for (and giving him that last 10% is being rather charitable). So did many other people I knew. But my feeling was, he has been duly elected, and I wish him the best. And certainly, he had duly won the right to exercise the powers of the presidency. I don’t really know of anyone who disagreed with that. Can anybody come up with any instance of a significant protest against Obama that turned violent, let alone an example of anyone in the government itself claiming a right to refuse to follow President Obama’s lawful orders because they thought his opponent should have won? I don’t know of any examples. A Wikipedia article here on the subject of “Protests Against Obama” includes things like various anti-abortion protests and the Tea Party, all entirely peaceful, and certainly not involving defiance of lawful authority. The only violent protest mentioned occurred in Athens, Greece, when Obama visited there in 2016.
And then Trump came along. Now it’s suddenly trendy to declare oneself part of the “Resistance” — the people who don’t accept that Donald Trump won the last election for President and therefore insist that his exercise of power is illegitimate.
OK, a lot of this is private citizens, and so long as they don’t actually take up arms against the government, it’s all just talk, itself covered by the First Amendment, so no big deal. Not so with the bureaucrats who work for the government. They differ from you and me in having taken an oath of office in which they swear to uphold the Constitution (Article VI, Clause 3: “[A]ll executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution. . . .”) And if that means one thing, it means honoring the results of the elections.
But suddenly we can all come up with numerous examples of federal employees and officers defying the President. Just to name a few:
In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s inauguration and issuance of the initial “travel ban” executive order, then Acting Attorney General Sally Yates (an Obama holdover) issued a written directive to the Justice Department to not enforce the President’s Order.
Here’s a New York Magazine article from July 2017 detailing efforts of federal employees in agencies including EPA, HHS and the State Department to work against the President’s agenda from the inside.
There’s the Project Veritas revelation from just a couple of days ago of a State Department employee working for the Democratic Socialists of America to resist the President’s agenda while on the taxpayers’ time.
Perhaps most significantly, we have had the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community working more or less continuously to subvert the President, Most recently, the President, who has the full authority to so so, orders some documents fully de-classified; and several days later, the bureaucrats are still stalling and redacting. Does anyone believe for a moment that there is any real sensitive national security information in here?
You may well have your own list of comparable examples.
All I can say is, this is not a healthy thing for our Republic. And, it can work two ways.