What About The President???
There’s plenty of people who think all evil in Washington comes from the Executive Branch of government. Not surprisingly, most of those people today are republicans. Of course, if you go back 12 years, democrats believed that the Executive branch had become an extension of Hades. You can make an argument for improper use of power whether you hate Bush or you hate Obama. I’m not going to mediate the debate.
I am going to say that the founders who crafted the US Constitution to replace the Articles of the Confederation knew that by creating an Executive Branch (which the Articles of the Confederation did not have) they were taking a risk that the president would exceed his authority. Stay with me – there’s a point to this civics lesson.
The founding fathers intended that Congress would be able to rein in the president if he exceeded his constitutional authority with the threat of impeachment. What constitutes an impeachable offense is vaguely defined – an impeachable offense is what two-thirds of the Senate agrees is impeachable. In almost any period in US history, a two-thirds majority in the Senate
requires defections from the president’s party. In our current state of hyper-partisanship, it’s impossible to get those defections. The other aspect of congressional hyper-partiship is gridlock, which forces presidents to press the limits of executive authority because Congress can’t pass legislation to fix problems which the the president MUST address.
Here’s my theory – when the legislative branch is dysfunctional and paralyzed and locked in a perpetual partisan duel, two political aspects re-enforce each other to produce ideal conditions for problems from the executive branch. First, Congress isn’t able to pass laws that address problems which the president is required to fix. Second, in an era of hyper-partisanship, there is virtually no chance the Senate can muster a two-thirds majority to impeach, anyway.
Here’s the flip side of that theory. When you have a Congress who has the best interests of the country at heart and understands the importance of the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, Congress will produce imperfect legislation that will work (imperfectly) and give the president the tools he needs to run the federal government and address (imperfectly) the problems which the country faces. That goes a long way to relieve the political pressure which tempts the executive to push the limits.
Extending that concept, if a significant number of Senators of both parties are operating from a highly ethical understanding of the principles that make democracy work, a president who exceeds his power runs a serious risk of censure or even impeachment if he crosses the line.
If we had a Congress – when we have a Congress, limited by a wall of separation between them and big money, they will work for the people. When the people are the source, the ONLY source of campaign funds, when a retired member of Congress can’t take a payoff in the form of a cushy job, when every member of Congress can not sellout, before during or AFTER their term in Congress, we will see a class of people with different values. They won’t necessarily be more liberal or more conservative but they will have no confusion about who they are working for.
I understand frustration that some voters have with the Executive Branch. There’s a constitutional mechanism for dealing with excesses by the Executive Branch, but you need a healthy Congress for the process to work. That’s how the government was designed. A functional Congress promotes a balanced Presidency.
An afterthought on the subject. Campaign Finance Reform will change how candidates for the office of President run their campaigns and how they set their priorities in the platform they run on. Right now, candidates for president are making unofficial promises and concessions to powerful sources of campaign funds. For government to work for the people, campaign money has to come ONLY from the people in small amounts that preclude buying favors.