5 Times Obama Wasn't A Dictator, Despite What Republicans Might Have You Believe

The GOP primary is kicking into gear, so predictably, Republicans are once again insisting that President Obama is a totalitarian monster who wants to shred the Constitution. This time, it's Chris Christie, who said that Obama "wants to act as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator" on Fox News Sunday. According to Christie, it seems the president has made the transition from sheer incompetence to absolute tyranny very swiftly; two weeks ago, the New Jersey governor called Obama a "feckless weakling" who couldn't get anything done. But of course, those living in reality know that Obama has proven he's not a dictator many, many times over — as has every other president in U.S. history.

First, let's be entirely clear about what we're talking about here. A dictator is a ruler who has absolute and total control over their country's government and its policies. In a dictatorship, there are no checks and balances on the leader's powers; they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and aren't accountable to anybody.

As Slate's Eric Posner points out, there's a world of a difference between a president who increases the power of the executive branch and a president who obliterates the power of every other branch. No U.S. president — not Franklin D. Roosevelt, not George W. Bush, not even Richard Nixon — has ever granted themselves absolute power. Neither has Obama, and here's the proof.

Gun Control

After the Sandy Hook massacre, Obama pushed for stronger gun control laws at the federal level, including mandatory background checks for all private handgun sales. While Congress considered passing a bill that would require this, the Senate ultimately didn't pass it. Obama respected Congress's decision, and as a result, there are, to this day, no mandatory background checks for private gun sales.

Health Care

When Obama announced in 2009 that he would be promoting a major health care reform bill, he insisted on a policy known as the "public option" — that is, a health insurance program that's actually run by the U.S. government. But there wasn't enough support in the Senate to pass a public option, and the final Affordable Care Act bill didn't include one. So, Obama signed the bill as it was, without a public option.

Guantanamo Bay

In 2008, Obama campaigned on closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. However, Congress has repeatedly blocked him from doing so. Because he is not a dictator, Obama didn't unilaterally close the prison, and Guantanamo Bay is still open as a result.

The American Jobs Act

Back in 2011, Obama campaigned vigorously for the American Jobs Act, a somewhat self-explanatory piece of legislation aimed at bringing down unemployment. But Senate Democrats couldn't muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, and so the bill never became law. Rather than enacting the law anyway, which is what a dictator would have done, Obama obeyed Congress, shelved the proposal, and moved on to other things.

Contraceptive Coverage

Obamacare requires companies that provide health insurance to their employees include contraceptives as part of that coverage. Some religious employers challenged this mandate, however, and the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that these employers couldn't be forced to pay for contraceptives for their employees if it violated their religious beliefs. The Obama administration, complying with the Supreme Court's decision, came up with a workaround that exempted employers from the cost of contraceptive coverage.