Prior to November 8, 2016, most media personnel were convinced that the people’s anger toward “elites” was merely a passing phase. Why would anyone choose the loud-mouthed, un-PC, boorish Donald Trump over their anointed elitist candidate Hillary Clinton?
As one who rejected both of them for different reasons, I can say “I understand why Trump voters voted the way they did.” They were and are fed up with the status quo and so they voted for “change” … whatever they thought that meant. Truthfully, Donald Trump’s election is a tremendous challenge for freedom. He’s not really a lover of civil liberties and I don’t think he owns a copy of the Constitution. If he does, he hasn’t read it.
But challenges often drag opportunities along with them. At no time in my lifetime or my parents’ has there been this much bipartisan, cross-ideological, popular support for wresting power away from government. YAY!
I’m not going to pretend to understand what powers the average Trump supporter wants to see removed from the elite, but I know some of the ones that concern me. I can only hope that Trump supporters understand that we should include their guy in with the “elite” since he’s about to become President and that’s about as elite as you can get.
In case you were taught in the public schools and haven’t read any books not on the central planners’ approved reading list, here are a few of the powers that Barack Obama, and by extension Donald Trump, now commands:
- A nuclear arsenal capable of destroying planet Earth at least a few times over
- Human history’s most expensive military
- An uncounted number of simultaneous secret wars (at least six in the Middle East, but nobody knows for sure how many CIA-instigated wars we’re really involved in)
- The power to imprison without due process
- Unilateral assassination power over US citizens
- Legalized torture
- Police departments armed with combat weaponry who are unaccountable to the courts
- The largest prison population in the developed world
- A vast and unaccountable domestic surveillance apparatus
I’m sure most of us didn’t realize that we the American people had allowed the President of the United States to accrue the power to unilaterally assassinate American citizens abroad. Maybe some folks thought it was a good idea that Barack Obama had that power when he summarily assassinated Anwar al Awlaki, but now they’re terrified that Donald Trump has it and might use it on someone they like or admire.
It wasn’t a good idea when Barack Obama could exercise such awesome cosmic powers. It wouldn’t have been a good power in Hillary Clinton’s hands. It’s not a good idea that Donald Trump have that power. It’s not a good idea that the executive branch has this power. It is too much power concentrated in the hands of any one person without any oversight. It doesn’t matter who they are.
It’s time to re-evaluate the powers accrued to the executive branch.
Does anyone but me remember when President Obama boasted to his progressive supporters, “I’ve got a pen and a phone”? His progressive supporters cheered his get-things-done attitude while conservatives worried that he would overstep greatly into their lives. They were right. He did, but they were okay with it when George Bush did it. Voters of both major parties tend to like presidents who promise to take command. Voters of both parties tend to lack wisdom.
Our nation’s Framers assumed the three branches of government would remain co-equal.The Framers understood this strongman-loving, authoritarian impulse, so they structured the government so as to entrust the legislative branch with the majority of decision-making power, including (by the way) the responsibility to elect the president and to impeach him when he oversteps that boundary.
Over the last 100 years, we’ve watched Congress cede this responsibility to the executive branch. Republican and Democrat presidents have expanded the role of Executive Branch even during divided governments, mainly through the use of executive orders. It started under the Wilson administration, gained a lot of control under FDR and has pretty much been the norm since World War II. Over the past decade, Congress has been unable to muster the political will necessary to adequately oversee, let alone check, the executive branch’s growing power. And that power doesn’t just exist in the Presidency, but it’s shot through all of the executive branch and hiding in the long grass of the deep state. Congress hasn’t just neglected its duty to keep the executive branch in check. It has deliberately legislated away its authority in a vast swath of governance. Ever wonder why the EPA is allowed to run roughshod over American citizens without ending up before a Congressional hearing? It’s because Congress doesn’t actually control the EPA under current law.
The Framers got a lot right, but they got something very wrong when they assume the Constitution could maintain a delicate balance of power between the three branches of government. Over time, the executive has become the dominate branch and presidential government has replaced congressional government increasingly over the last 60 years. The endless war on terror has added fuel to that fire for 15 years. Both political parties have been complicit in constructing a destructive system of authoritarian power, accompanied by unbridled authority vested in the executive branch.
So what do we do about it? Now there’s the hard part. Can we, having allowed this stupid situation, do anything to change it? Maybe.