Bob Stannard: Equal branches of government; really?
From the days when this great nation of ours was founded, people like George Washington and his compadres were worried about the position of president. Remember, the men of those days were revolting against the iron grip King George III had on the Colonies. The Revolutionaries were getting sick and tired of being ruled by the heavy hand of England. They pushed back against tyranny. The rest, as they say, is history.
How they were to rule their new country was a subject of hot debate. They wanted a country that would be of the people, by the people, for the people. They distrusted the concept of one person with a lot of power being in charge of those who fought so hard to win their independence. They put many restrictions on this new position. Although George Washington would serve as our first president he was reluctant to take the job; not because he didn't feel qualified, but because he felt uncomfortable ruling over others. His view was that the position was not about him, but about the people he served; not ruled.
It's worth noting that initially presidents from George Washington to Franklin D. Roosevelt served two terms voluntarily. Roosevelt became president at the beginning of WWII and Americans were reluctant to have him leave office in the middle of one of the more intense wars of the world. Historians and experts can debate whether or not keeping FDR in for four terms was the right thing to do, or even a good idea. After the war was over Americans decided that two terms for any president were enough and codified this into law.
Since these days of long ago Congress has seen fit to gradually hand over more and more power to the presidency. Some of the more glaring examples are as follows: allowing the office of the president to impose sanctions, allowing a policing mission verses declaring war; the liberal use of executive orders that Pres. Obama used to wage war on ISIS without going through Congress and as of today allowing today's president to undermine our institutions.
The United States has three separate, but equal branches of government. Handing over even a little bit more power to one of those branches can have a profound impact on the remaining two. It's easy to see why a weak Congress would want to hand off some of their power. They would much prefer to not have to make tough decisions and have gladly dumped them on the executive branch. We're now living with the impact of the failure of Congress to maintain the delicate balance of our democracy.
The founders anticipated that one day America might be governed by one who thought they should be king or queen. That was the idea behind three separate but equal branches of government. If they were here today they'd be appalled at how the legislative branch, the branch that is closest to the people, has abrogated power to the executive branch. Did the Founders anticipate a time when a handful of rich men would wield enormous influence over politicians, or a time when the people either didn't care or ended up powerless to do anything about it?
Of course, the people aren't technically powerless. They could grab the reins and throw out those who bow to a king. However, people are too busy working two or three jobs to make ends meet and trying to survive to pay attention to politics.
The irony is that they're so busy trying to stay afloat that they don't realize the way to make their lives better is to participate in their democracy. If their representatives are representing the interests of the rich and powerful (or foreign adversaries) over their interests then they need to get organized and vote.
Who has the time to do this most important job? The rich and powerful sure do and they've done a great job at making sure they get things like tax cuts; reducing regulations that protect people; getting subsidies for themselves while demonizing the poor; engaging in conflicts that make them money while we sacrifice our kids.
The balance has tipped in favor of the executive branch and we've allowed it to happen. Sadly, we don't seem to care. We don't care that our CEO hires his kids and uses his position to enhance their wealth; and his. We don't care that our CEO is extorting our allies for help with a potential political opponent while withholding military aid approved by Congress. We don't care that our CEO is more interested in the welfare of Russia than that of America.
When we are too busy to care that is when the vision of our Founding Fathers comes to an end. When we relinquish the power of the people to one person who would be king then we're right back where we started.
It took a revolution to gain our freedom. The only way we can keep it is if you vote.
Bob Stannard writes a regular column for the Journal.
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