Congress Is Destroying America
Our federal system of government no longer works.
The current predicament did not start with the election of President Trump. What his ascendancy did was exacerbate the already frayed societal and constitutional norms that have been eroding for decades.
Partisan politics have been with us for most of our history. This was somewhat mitigated by people of all political persuasions living within the same communities. Now more and more of us have self-selected to live in neighborhoods or areas where people have similar party affiliation, income, class, and race. America, while being a diverse nation, is now made up of many different segregated silos.
What the current crop of elected leaders (with President Trump in the lead) has done is torn at any semblance of decorum and civility. In the past, the way our system functioned was by tacit acceptance of different groups. American enemies were foreign governments rather than each other’s domestic political parties.
The educational system no longer educates. Civics and history are neglected and, when taught, the subject matter has been stripped of context and morality. There are truths that are self-evident and rights that are incontrovertible. President Trump’s Orwellian descriptions and assertions are the opposite. As our leader, Trump now states his alternate facts, giving license to his proponents and detractors to play fast and loose with the truth.
What we have in Washington, and more and more in our state capitals, are demagogic outbursts. There were two instances just this week. One was New York’s Governor Cuomo going after insurance companies and banks that work for the NRA. The second was President Trump deciding that Google is manipulating their search engine against him and now requires regulation.
Both these instances should be roundly denounced, not only by the opposition but by all. Further, it is the job of the legislature to push back when the executive branch begins to veer in the wrong direction in order to maintain democracy. For the legislative branch to do less (or nothing) is characteristic of a dictatorship, no matter how one cloaks it.
Congress has abdicated its responsibilities. It has ceded too much authority to the presidency. This has led to government by fiat and executive order. The United States is not a parliamentary system. When the same party holds power in both legislative houses and in the executive branch, it should not mean the legislative meekly acquiesces to the executive. Whether done out of electoral fear or party loyalty, it is completely wrong.
The founders wrote a constitution that never mentions political parties. George Washington was extremely afraid of what partisan bickering would do to the United States — as he warned us in his farewell address. But from the time of Washington’s presidency, political parties have existed. In some respect, they were even more vitriolic than is exhibited by today’s parties.
The difference was that parties were not an institution to themselves but rather a way for voters to know the parties governing philosophies. The Republican party of today has very different governing philosophies than those of just a decade ago. The Democrats are no better. These parties are tribes not civic philosophical entities. They exist so that their leaders and followers can survive and exist. This is similar to the old Communist party the Soviet Union had by the time of Gorbachev, bereft of principles, and now so too are America’s parties today.
In the age of Trump, our congress has just pulled back the curtain to show their naked ambition to remain in power…. much like the wizard. There is no pretense of exercising congressional oversight. Congress is supposed to be the most powerful branch instituting policies and enacting laws for the executive to carry out.
Nowhere in the Constitution’s Article 2 is the authority for executive orders mentioned. The article does give the President the authority to manage the government. The first executive order was promulgated on June 4th, 1789 when Washington instructed his department heads to come up with a plan to run the government. The most famous order was by Lincoln which was the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in those areas which were in rebellion. The 13th Amendment needed to be ratified for slavery to be abolished in the U.S.
By passing overbroad legislative acts, Congress has given the executive branch the leeway to implement orders and regulations to carry out the law. This has led to government by fiat, enabling one president to change the actions of another at any time. While it alleviates the need for Congress to take hard political action, it results in a concentration of authority in the executive branch where that amount of power was never meant to reside.
In Trumpian America, the semblance of the American system is gone. In order to survive and remain in power, the congressional Republican tribe has decided that its constitutional oversight responsibilities should be ignored. They have determined that survival in office is paramount to the interests of the country. Congress needs to reclaim its legislative prerogatives and stop being a sniveling apologist for the executive branch.