There was an election last night. Interesting stuff! Alas, Ephs are concerned about the results. But is there a political topic that all good Ephs can agree on? I nominate this February essay by Oren Cass ’05.
Our system of government does little to prevent a strongman or a crank from winning the presidency. As long as Electoral College members adhere faithfully to the election results in their states, voters may choose whomever they want, on whatever basis. Recognizing this, the Constitution’s framers tightly circumscribed the president’s role, checking it horizontally with coequal branches that resist sudden change and vertically with the many powers reserved to the states.
The dangerous and novel phenomenon of 2016 is not irresponsible politicians or an inflamed electorate, but rather the unprecedented concentration of power awaiting the election’s ultimate winner. Ironically, many of the now-panicking elites are the very ones who made the presidency so powerful. If they can learn the right lesson from the recent chaos, the specter — even fleeting — of a President Trump or a President Sanders could provide the needed spur to restore balance to our constitutional system. Both parties have done their best to expand the power of the presidency in recent decades — whenever the presidency was theirs. Presidents Reagan and then Clinton established unprecedented White House control over the sprawl of federal agencies. The second President Bush asserted nearly exclusive authority to manage national security and foreign affairs. President Obama, after campaigning against the Bush administration’s excesses, doubled down on most and then applied the same attitude to matters of domestic policy.
Obama described in 2014 his “pen and phone” strategy for governing alone in his second term. At the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the president informed the audience that he had “something that rhymes with ‘bucket list.’ Take executive action on immigration. Bucket. New climate regulations. Bucket, it’s the right thing to do.”
Read the whole thing.
Cass argues that we ought to dramatically decrease the power of the president. I am a Trump voter, and I agree. Will my fellow Ephs who voted for Clinton join us in this effort? If so, where should Obama start?