The Imperial Presidency
By. Raimondo Graziano
The presidency of the United States has always been loosely defined, the actual enumeration of the powers of the president encompass little more than two paragraphs in our constitution – the guiding document of our nation. Over time, the president’s power has increased significantly, and the propensity of the man holding office to use his unilateral or executive authority has grown stronger with every passing, election. Coupled with the continued capitulation and enabling by the President in offices own party, whoever it may be, the party has endorsed these actions through their complicity in the overreach in executive authority. While this has increased steadily over time, in the last hundred years, specifically and most importantly after the elections of President Franklin Roosevelt, the slow march towards the imperial presidency we have today has greatly fastened.
The Republic in many ways is no more – Congress has become a tool of the President to advance an agenda, and the work there truly shows when the majority party holds onto Congress; the courts too have become a tool to ensure the policies enacted, are constitutionally protected and endorsed by partisan judges. The executive, has broad powers today – than at any other point in history. We have an imperial presidency, and our institutions are threatened by them – whether or not this is good, moral, or immoral is not the question. The question is – are the American people in support of a more central government, do the American people endorse this imperial presidency – not of one specific administration but of what it means for the office itself.
While numerous administrations have used executive authority to push forth policy change and reform none have ruled by the pen quite like the 44th and 45th, the former and current presidents of The United States. Executive Orders have become the tool of choice for Presidents hampered by partisan divides amongst the Congress and a general inability to govern effectively. Lacking majorities in both chambers of Congress the hope of achieving substantial policy achievements is pitifully low. Through executive action however, the President can act unilaterally- though that carries with it the possibility it will be overturned by an incoming administration. However, the precedents that have been set over the course of the last decade are fundamentally reordering the very institution of the Presidency itself, centralizing its power, reducing the importance of the judiciary and Congress to mere pawns of the President and his party. From the 44th using his pen to rewrite immigration policy, to the 45th reappropriating funds through use of an emergency declaration at the Southern Border to build his wall – a core campaign promise.
Both broaden the reach of presidential power. Just this month, officials from nearly every major cabinet department have refused to comply with requests for documents and answer to subpoenas regarding ongoing investigations from numerous House Committees. This here touches on the concept of coequal branches of government. And on cabinet departments too, the number of acting secretaries who have not been confirmed by the Senate is astounding in the country’s history – the President himself has said it allows him greater leeway to work, in other words to centralize presidential control over the executive and to undercut the Congress, and use judicial appointments of ideologues pushed through speedy confirmations to ensure these changes are upheld. Where is the questioning of the American people on this? Where is our social responsibility? We are either distracted by banal mundane trivialities, or we have lost the will to care. Either way we in some way have condoned this rise of the Imperial Presidency.