New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the list of Democratic presidential candidates who have vowed to back their agendas with the power of the White House, promising to issue an executive order “to force” the U.S. Soccer Federation to pay its female athletes the same as men if Congress fails to pass legislation.
This order would essentially allow the Treasury Department to bully the tax-exempt organization into submission by removing its tax-free benefits if it doesn’t comply.
“If I were president of the United States, I would insist Congress pass an amendment to the Amateur Sports Act requiring equal pay for men and women in all of our national sports teams,” de Blasio told CNN. “And if they didn’t do it, I’d use an executive order to have the Treasury Department enforce on the U.S. Soccer Federation, ’cause they’re tax-exempt, and they’re discriminating in effect against women in pay.”
Such a move would be politically disastrous: the government cannot be used as a weapon against the private sector, no matter how much you might disagree with the way an organization conducts itself. De Blasio either doesn’t understand this or he doesn’t care.
And he’s not the only one. The Democratic presidential candidates are determined to tackle big, controversial issues, like gun control, reparations for black Americans, and now, equal pay for the sexes. Big issues require bold action, and more often than not, this means executive action.
Of course, executive action is always framed as the alternative. Original proposals always require congressional approval: Joe Biden rolled out an ambitious climate change initiative, Kamala Harris promised new gun control legislation, and Elizabeth Warren, well, she has a plan for everything. But the candidates aren’t shy about admitting that if these plans fail, they still have a back-up option: the executive order.
And why should they be? Executive action is the new normal. President Barack Obama famously touted his “phone and pen” strategy. Trump, though he’s used executive orders more sparingly, is still on track to catch up to his predecessors.
Executive action never achieves lasting change. It can be overturned by the next man (or woman) who sits in the Oval Office with just a flick of the wrist. De Blasio doesn’t care. Neither does Harris, nor Warren. That’s because, right now, the commitment to unilateral action is just lip-service to the Left. It’s a go-to tool on the campaign trail because it makes the candidates look like unwavering opponents who will go to any lengths to defeat Trump and his agenda. The promises, says William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, are “intended to signal the unswerving determination to get the job done one way or another.”
Let’s hope it stays that way. Because if elected, constitutional barriers, congressional approval, and the role of the presidency wouldn’t stand in the way of a President de Blasio, or Harris, or Warren, who would shape the presidency into whatever they want.