Constraining the Executive   Leave a comment

The election of Donald Trump hits me on two levels. One … it’s kind of scary because he’s a loose canon and the executive branch has never been more powerful, “thanks” in large part to Barack Obama’s usurpations of emperor-like power. Two – he’s an actor and you can’t really believe anything actors present because they are playing a role, so who Donald Trump will be in office is a vast unknown … which still causes me anxiety, but is a whole lot less terrifying. Actors can be president. One of our better presidents had been an actor.

By the way, I voted against Ronald Reagan the first time. I was 20. I probably don’t need to say more than that. But here’s the stupid thing. Jimmy Carter had screwed Alaska economically with the D2 Lands executive order only a couple of years before and, like most Alaskans, I was angry with him for that. Still, when my college friends said Ronald Reagan couldn’t be president because he’d been an actor, I agreed and pulled the lever for Carter like a good little liberal sheep. Fortunately, there were plenty of more-informed voters out there who voted against Carter because of what a piss-poor job he’d down with the economy. I grew up and voted my own conscience — for Reagan — in 1984.

Regardless of who Donald Trump really is, his election presents an opportunity because the country is clearly experiencing a political uprising, a populist revolt that is demanding actual change in the way that the government operates. Such times provide opportunity that the pro-freedom movement can use to our advantage.

Now, while the smug conceited ruling class tries to right itself after discovering they aren’t the center of the universe, is the perfect time to take advantage of anti-elitist sentiment and work to actually limit government power.

Trump’s election provides an extremely rare opportunity for conservatives and classical liberals to reassert congressional authority. The problem is Congress doesn’t want to check executive power. There’s nothing for them to gain and everything to lose as they fear challengers to office will paint them as “soft on terror” or “weak on defense.”

So how do we force Congress to do their jobs?

By talking to one another. For the first time in eight years, liberals are scared of who is president, so constitutional conservatives who remain skeptical of an imperialist executive will be able to find common ground with them. These progressive liberals resisted the Bush administrations attempt to grab power beyond what was smart, then spent eight years cheering as Obama did it, so we can’t call them champions of liberty, but now they’re terrified of the President-elect, so hopefully they’re ready to return to their roots.

Now is the time to increase advocacy for classical liberalism, to recognize division while promoting civility and acknowledging bigotry on all sides without engaging in it. Classical liberalism means more than lower taxes. It means protecting the dignity and rights of every human being through publicly embracing true tolerance while allowing for diversity of opinion. Recognizing hate doesn’t require shutting down speech, forcing uncomfortable association or violating religious freedom.

It’s time to wrest power back from the executive to the more accountable Congress. If there were ever a time to pressure Congress to reassert its power, now is the time. A piece of legislation called the REINS Act (H.R. 427) addresses this. Originally proposed by Don Young, Alaska’s Representative to Congress, it hasn’t been able to move out of the House since its introduction in 2011, but Republicans re-introduced in 2015. I encourage people to contact their Senators and Representatives about the bill. It’s so much easier for a Congressperson to vote for a bill if their constituents are asking for it. Give them a clear instruction on how you would like them to reassert Congressional authority over the executive. Although the bill has passed the House with healthy majorities on a couple of occasions, a companion bill in the Senate has stalled. Now that all three branches of government will be in the hands of one party, that should not be a problem.

The REINS Act would require that all regulations put into effect since 1991 be repealed unless the programs supporting those regulations can provide convincing evidence to Congress that they should still be in force. The overall theory behind the legislation is an attempt to reverse the regulatory overreach by the executive branch, who promulgates thousands of rules that Congress never intended and has not approved. Compliance costs of these regulations costs Americans almost $2 trillion a year.

Just passing this regulation alone constrains the greater executive branch that flows from the Presidency. Yes, there are regulations that are absolutely vital for health and safety. There is no reason to believe those would go away … but if an agency cannot justify the benefit of a regulation, then it has no business being on the books.They exist merely to give some Washington elite a job and authority over the lives of American citizens. That needs to stop and this is a good start coming at a time when there is an opportunity caused by angers against the ruling class to make substantive changes in the elite’s power structure.

Nature abhors a vacuum and this voters revolt has created a vacuum while the elite and their media mourn their temporary dethronement. It will either be filled with a populist-flavored authoritarianism or, if libertarians are willing and act quickly, a constrained executive once more accountable to Congress.

And, along the way, we can use the confusion of those who are used to following the elite’s bandwagon, to discuss classic liberalism and why it is an antidote to corruption and authoritarianism and a recipe for liberty for all of us.


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