Days of Change

Large and In Charge | September 8, 2018

The Founding Fathers had no real opinion about a guy like Donald Trump becoming president, but they did have opinions about one man being in charge. In many countries, the party with the legislative majority votes one of their own into office as a Prime Minister. In the US, the president is chosen by the states (not the people, which is another long diatribe about federalism) and can be a different party than the legislative majority. In fact, Republicans and Democrats have had the presidency for an almost equal number of years in the last 100 years. By 2020, it will be exactly equal. However, Republicans have only been the majority in both houses for 27 years, most of which was in the last 20 years.

What the Founders didn’t like was the consolidation of power. Majorities are in the Constitution rather than parties and the president had much less power. At the outset, the president was there when quick, unilateral decisions were required. However, the president was later granted the ability to wage wars and approve treaties that were enacted under “emergency” conditions. Eventually, Congress would rubber stamp White House actions so they didn’t have to take the heat, sometimes regardless of party.

In the modern era we have concepts like executive privilege and executive orders which grant the president broad power and protection unless the Congress takes action against him. However, this power has been transferred to the Executive Branch by the Legislative Branch over time and the Democrats held Congress for almost 60 years straight in the House until 1995. In fact, Donald Trump is the Republican to enter the Presidency with an existing Republican Congressional majority that held for 2 years since Herbert Hoover.

The “imperial” presidency actually grew over a period of time. While Obama used it to go around a Senate that did not have enough votes to override a veto, he was also acting as a member of the Democratic Party. In the case of Trump, he is generally acting in the interests of the Republican Party, but is not really interested in supporting the GOP in legislation that doesn’t match his goals.

Aside from Congress, the presidency is important because every adult in the country has the opportunity to vote yes or no on the presidency. In general, voters prefer confidence and swagger over position papers and policy wonks. This is not a bad thing. If the job requires decisive action, the president needs to be confident.

The emerging issue with Trump and his cocksure attitude is that the people who oppose or resit him are not actually willing to use the tools at their disposal, If 19 Republican Senators truly opposed Trump on an Executive Order, for example, they could simply join the Democrats and override it. A senior adviser could resign and spill the tea about the administration. If you’re Omarosa, you can apparently play the tape as well. One “adviser” chose to (anonymously) call Donald Trump names in a New York Times Op-Ed. Again, he could have resigned or possibly talked to 19 Republican Senators about the dangerous state of the country.

Donald Trump’s nature is to make proclamations and dare people to oppose him. Then he either bullies them until they give up or pays them off quietly. It takes action to stop that. In 2016, the GOP was paralyzed and just kept hoping that someone other than Trump would win the nomination. The left stood by (after spending a year promoting him) hoping that calling Trump a sexist would help Hillary win the election. Now, the people not in charge are hoping to paint Trump as abnormally crazy instead of limiting the power of the presidency, because they want to retain it for when they have the president’s ear again.

Donald Trump rejects your status quo and substitutes his own.

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