The Imperial Presidency Will Never End

Eric Medlin

History instructor. Writer. Rising star in the world of affordable housing.

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18 Responses

  1. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    This is why Lord of the Rings was fiction. If Boromir took the ring, he’d have been able to take the fight directly to Sauron and defeat him and his armies and then, afterwards, would be able to use the ring to establish *PEACE*.

    The fact that they wanted to rely on getting rid of the ring (and, indeed, *WALKING* to Mordor to get rid of it instead of flying there on one of the eagles) indicates how pie-in-the-sky Gandalf’s theories actually were. And how come nobody cared about the rings the elves had?Report

  2. Oscar Gordon
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree with the OP, but I expect that what we will mostly hear is, “Well, you have to understand…”.Report

  3. Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    Every elected politician who might harbor dreams of the Presidency is taking a long hard look at the reaction Biden got for withdrawing from an unpopular and unwinnable war, and drawing their own conclusions.Report

  4. Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    I think a big issue is that Juan Linz’s observations on the short-comings of Presidential systems that separate the executive from the legislative are finally coming to the United States. It seems increasingly clear that the system of government established in the Constitution are increasingly unworkable in the 21st century among a very divided population. However, it is also nearly impossible to change our system of government because of the high threshold needed, the iron law of institutions, and enough politicians and others have vested interests in the status quo including an uncritical worship of the founders and the Constitution like it is perfection itself.

    In a more sane political system, Manchin and Sinema would be cranky but harmless backbenchers. In our system, they are essentially co-Presidents in everything but name only.

    In the early years of Trump, the GOP had a slim majority in Congress and could not do anything except their tax cut and appoint judges. It is clear that the a slim Democratic majority might not be able to do much either. This frustration leads to an unending thermostatic electorate. It is also becoming increasingly clear that if Congress is controlled by the opposition, nothing gets through. Hence, Presidents will always govern via executive order and administration.

    A Westminster style Parliament can make this all go away but good luck in getting one.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s bad that major changes in law can’t get made with slim majority support?Report

      • Philip H in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        would that that were true. Major policy changes are indeed made all the time with slim majorities – witness the Trump tax cuts. The inability to make structural changes to match is what’s killing us. And I suspect if structural changes were easier to make the policy ones might well be less monumental.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Philip H
          Ignored
          says:

          I’m not sure that a tax cut/increase really counts as a major policy change.

          Moving from income tax to Georgism or whatever is a major policy change… but raising it 10% or lowering it 3% (elderly people will die!) isn’t a major policy change.

          It’s well within spec of “tweaking” policy.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        *Searches through the Constitution, looking for “Changes in Law, Major.”*

        Huh. Coulda sworn it was in here somewhere.Report

        • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          Good thing I didn’t say that, then. Did you have a problem with Philip’s distinction between major plicy changes and structural changes?Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
            Ignored
            says:

            The Constitution allows simple majorities for any law, but requires supermajorities for changes to the Constitution itself.

            In terms of the ability of a majority to pass laws, there isn’t any difference between “major policy change”, “minor policy change”, or “structural change”.

            So yeah, when a supermajority is needed for anything below a Constitutional change, its bad.Report

  5. LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    Seconding my brother on this. The Madisonian system worked when the parties were more diverse ideologically. This allowed Congress to engage in horse trading and get things done. Republicans becoming an essentially disciplined parliamentary party doesn’t work in our system. Since both parties can’t get enough seats in Congress to rule alone and big tent nature of the Democratic party subjects them more the American version of the liberum veto called the filibuster, many decisions are moved to the Presidency.Report

  6. Michael Cain
    Ignored
    says:

    Facilitating the shift Saul and Lee talk about is the problem (difficulty? necessity?) that governing a very large, modern country requires making a huge number of picky detailed decisions. Eg, the FCC has to allocate radio spectrum, and approve satellite communications plans, and approve interoperability standards, etc, etc. There’s no way a bunch of amateurs in the legislature are going to do anything beyond setting really broad outlines. That fourth branch of government is going to exist, the question is who controls it.Report

  7. Pat
    Ignored
    says:

    Yes.

    But also yes, Psaki telling reporters that the President supported a partisan candidate is a far less egregious violation of the Hatch Act than Kellyanne’s multiple actions. CREW was correct to point it out, but it generated 1/10th of the hubbub because it’s about that big.

    And there’s a difference between Biden using authority (imo arguably, ymmv) granted to him under public health laws to halt evictions during a pandemic and Trump repurposing funds Congress assigned to military bases to build his wall. These are differences in both kind and degree.

    This doesn’t detract from the point that the time to restrain executive power is when you hold the legislative, which I agree with.

    I will note, however, that taking power away from the executive mostly requires Congress to take it *back*, and Congress is even more dysfunctionally inept than even the previous administration was.Report

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