These reversals provoke considerable concern about the implications for climate change. They also reflect a serious defect in our winner-take-all system of government. When one party seizes control of the executive power, it can drive policies in one direction. And when the other party regains power, it can reverse course and take policy in the other direction. This high volatility in policy serves the country and the world poorly.
While the Constitution’s system of checks and balances often breaks down, giving the White House too much power (see here and here), recent action by California reflects the important role that the states play in containing presidential action.
It seems that President Trump has a unique ability to push people apart—launching trade wars, disrupting international agreements, or attacking immigrants and political opponents. He’s split family and other personal relationships. But even with a new person in the Oval Office, we’ll still be highly polarized. It’s not so much the president who is polarizing, it’s the presidency.
While Democratic members of Congress are still debating whether to begin the impeachment process, people watching the questioning of former special counsel Robert Mueller yesterday could easily have thought they were viewing an impeachment proceeding.
According to the New York Times, it is unlikely that federal prosecutors will bring any other charges related to the “hush money” paid by President Trump to conceal his affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
That’s the right call. Indeed, as I’ve written before, prosecutors never should have filed charges against Trump lawyer Michael Cohen over the payments.
In siding with President Trump in a lawsuit over his financial conflicts of interest, a federal court of appeals invoked a controversial legal principle that undermines the judiciary’s checking and balancing role. According to the court, Maryland and the District of Columbia lacked “standing” to sue the President. The court therefore dismissed the suit, without deciding whether the President was breaking the law. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has invoked the standing doctrine many times to block the public from holding Presidents and other government officials accountable for their actions.
While President Trump regularly shatters political norms, and playing to his base rather than appealing to a broader electorate seems to fit his unorthodox style, he in fact is not that different from his predecessors in remaining loyal to his core supporters.
After reading the Declaration of Independence, it is easy to wonder why the Founding Fathers gave us an imperial presidency. The Declaration documents no fewer than twenty-seven grievances about King George III’s abuse of power. But the Constitution was written more than a decade later after an unhappy experience with state constitutions that had severely restricted executive authority and greatly expanded legislative authority. Continue Reading Independence Day and the Imperial Presidency
Pundits have been quick to identify winners and losers from last night’s debate. There are, of course, many problems with such commentary. We know which teams win soccer matches because they score more goals, and we generally know which candidates win elections because they receive more votes, but we have no similar objective measure for debates. Continue Reading Winner and Losers at the Democratic Debate