We’ve got a new president. I’m not sure that’s a comforting thought, but it is reason for thought. I suspect we’ll all survive the next four years just fine. You’ve laid in enough rice and beans, right? Ammo? Fuel?
I’m joking … mostly. You would have needed those if Hillary won. The US Constitution is actually under a lot of stress right now and we might want to take a look at that before the problems caused by the last many administrations, but specifically the Bush and Obama presidencies, blow up in our faces.
Executive power is a dangerous thing in the hands of a president who is seeking greatness. In the last century only one president has successfully resisted that urge to use executive power to achieve personal greatness — Calvin Coolidge. The Founders understood this and wrote the Constitution to protect the freedom of the citizens from the vicissitudes of democratic rule. The Framers knew about demagoguery and populism and it terrified them. They feared that voters might be swept up in a wave of popular excitement and enact policies damaging to the long-term prosperity and freedom of the people, so they wrote check-and-balances into the Constitution to prevent that.
Unfortunately, after more than a century of attack, our Constitution doesn’t limit our government the way it once did. The Presidency has been allow to grow to be incredibly powerful. Executive orders allow the president to make significant decisions without proper checks and balances. Republicans wanted this power when President Bush was in office, and Democrats wanted this power when President Obama was in office, but now that someone as unpredictable as Donald Trump will be in the Oval Office, they are scared of that power. The riots in several cities are evidence of that terror.
I kind of want to blow a raspberry and shout the advice of – “Don’t endorse a government power that you wouldn’t want your worst political enemy to wield. You did, so you deserve what you get.” But, because I love the people who comprise the country I live in, I will restrain myself. Just as Republicans learned the dangers of an unrestrained Executive quite painfully under President Obama, Democrats will soon be feeling the sharp edges of that power under Donald Trump.
When faced with Congressional inaction, Obama rationalized sweeping executive orders. If Congress wouldn’t do anything about immigration, Obama would by asserting unilateral power into a system that depends on checks-and-balances. The ends really do not justify the means. Whether or not you agree with the policy outcome, allowing the President to stretch the bounds of what is Constitutional is a BAD idea. Democrats, in endorsing Obama’s action, set themselves up for the backlash. It’s as if they thought they would never lose another election. (Hmmm…..??????)
Obama also used congressional inaction as a justification to act without the advice and consent of the Senate. After his nominees to the NLRB and CFPB were blocked by the Senate, President Obama used his recess appointment power to push his nominees through. It was a bold, reckless, unprecedented, and dangerous move that was struck down unanimously by the Supreme Court, but we can’t trust the Supreme Court to intervene all the time. If Obama had the arrogance to push through those appointments, imagine how far Trump might go on other matters. Bold and brash are his middle name.
Congress hasn’t declared a war since World War II. No, seriously, it hasn’t. Korea, Vietnam, First Iraq, Second Iraq, and Afghanistan were all fought without obtaining the constitutionally required declaration of war from Congress. The “War on Terror” relies on the Authorization of the Use of Military Force, signed a week after the September 11th attacks. Two presidents have allowed the military to fight “terrorists” wherever they want without Congressional approval. It wasn’t good that they had that kind of unilateral power, but President Trump will have that power also. Yeah, my blood pressure goes up just a little at that thought. It’s why my 17-year-old and I are trying to figure out how he claims conscientious objector status for the Selective Service.
President Obama was not substantially different from nearly every president before him in defining a new baseline of executive power. Democrats were fine with that when he was in office, but now that power will be handed over to Donald Trump, they’re freaking out … as well they should. Hopefully, left-wing groups like the Constitutional Accountability Center will link arms with the libertarian-conservative groups like the Cato Institute in filing briefs opposing Trump’s forthcoming executive overreaches.
By the way, conservatives told you this would happen, folks. I’m sure you wouldn’t be freaking out now if Hillary Clinton had won the election, but you should have been. Unlimited executive power is DANGEROUS to the freedom of the people, no matter which party is wielding the power. The only way to fix it is to deny that sort of power to ALL presidents.