I originally titled this article, “The Dying Experiment of Self Governance.”
Maybe that’s a bit overdramatic. Maybe not.
I’ve always viewed my country as a place where we can have differences in political theory, yet come to a consensus on how to govern ourselves. It requires a level of compromise. Not everyone gets what they want, but in the end we find common ground to agree on a framework for self governance.
Those who may not like the overall direction compromise some of their beliefs in order to remain within the wonderful country known as The United States of America. I feel as if I’m in this category. I feel as if I’ve been in this category since around 2002. I’m not aligned with the wishes of the majority of Americans. And that’s okay.
Let’s have a simple civics test.
Of the following two sentences, which one is from the Preamble of The Constitution of The United States?
We hold these truths to be self evident…
We the People of the United States...
If you chose the 2nd sentence, without using Google, then congrats!
By declaring our independence, successfully completing a revolution, and creating our own constitution, we effectively cast aside Rule by Monarchy. Self governance is the path we chose.
One of the neat things the architects of our government managed to accomplish in the 18th century was to create a system of checks and balances. Three branches of government.
I can’t help but wonder. What would the framers of our Constitution think of the current power held by our Executive Branch of government? On the other hand, who cares what they would think. They’re dead. Times have changed and we have to govern in a far different period.
The Executive Order
Sounds fancy. Presidents have been writing Executive Orders for a long time. My issue is the use of Executive Orders to enforce policy. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. I will rephrase. It is the use of Executive Orders to bypass approval by the Legislative Branch, which bothers me.
If you are concerned this is morphing into a bashing session toward our current President, rest easy. The use of Executive Orders to push a political agenda began under President Bill Clinton. This expanded under each of the following administrations. President Obama took these powers to another level, and President Trump has potentially expanded the powers of the Executive Branch even further.
I feel the powers of the Executive Branch will only continue to expand for the following reasons.
We are a prosperous country. Historically, real political change only occurs when a population is oppressed and hungry. We are neither.
One way to reduce the power of the Executive Branch would be through Congressional action. Not very likely. Consider the obstacles to Congress passing such legislation. Certainly the opposing political party would want to pass legislation which curtails the power of the current President. But two things would need to also occur; getting votes from the President’s political party, and getting the President to sign the bill.
Then there is a Constitutional Amendment. Do our state governments really have the will to curtail the powers of our Executive Branch? This would again require political parties to cast aside the desire to press their own agenda. The political parties of our state governments are nearly as split as Congress.
My belief is the majority of my fellow citizens are okay with the increasing powers of the Executive Branch. This is my most compelling reason as to why I believe our future Presidents will yield even more power.
A Vicious Cycle
In order to reign in the powers of our Executive Branch of government, either the Democrats or the Republicans would have to give up power. Political parties simply do not give up power. Not on the state or federal level.
The newly elected President first begins undoing the agenda of the previous President. This is in concert with the desires of the President’s respective Political Party. Then the President writes Executive Orders to push the agenda of said Political Party.
The Republican Party was furious as President Obama issued Executive Order after Executive Order. Now, as President Trump enters his 4th year as President, ditto for the Democratic Party.
I mean, sorry to break this news to you, Republicans. At some point in the future, a Democrat will again become President. One year? Five years? Nine years? It will happen. Considering this, does anyone really believe the Democratic Party will want to remove the power of these Executive Orders from their President?
Wash, rinse, repeat. So the cycle will continue.
To take action and reign in the Executive Branch, both Democrats and Republicans would need to band together and accept things as they are from the most recent administration. One party has to give up the revenge cycle. One party would have to yield to the other, and allow future agendas to once again involve the Legislative Branch.
Calling All Jurists
Surely the Judicial Branch will eventually put an end to this. This does not appear likely to happen.
For our Supreme Court to declare the use of Executive Orders unconstitutional, someone would first need to challenge the legality of an Executive Order. Imagine the Democrats, after their failure to remove President Trump from office via impeachment, suddenly challenging one of his Executive Orders. It would be viewed as political. And it would mean the Democrats would be attempting to curtail the power of their future President.
Ditto for the Republicans when we inevitably elect a Democratic President.
The Supreme Court will likely never hear one of these challenges. And if they did, guess what? There are opinions from Jurists who believe our Presidents have found a loophole within our current laws to yield the power they do.
It comes down to the people of our country. We would have to band together and press our elected officials to reduce the powers of the Executive Branch.
From my seat, the majority of my country is okay with a powerful Executive Branch. I don’t like it. But I love my country and I respect the opinions of my fellow citizens. This article is my coming to terms with the current desires of my country.
As recently as a few weeks ago I was stating how I’ve always voted for the person I believed to be the best leader. Slim pickings, I know. But I used to ignore their policies because the new President would have to deal with Congress to enact those policies. No longer true.
Now I have to vote for the policy, not the person.