Sunday, March 12, 2017

#71 / Article II

The Constitution of the United States is organized into seven different "Articles." The first three Articles outline the duties of the three branches of government that the Consitution establishes:

  • Article I - Legislative
  • Article II - Executive
  • Article III - Judicial
This is pretty basic, and most of us understand the concept pretty well. Each branch of the government has its own assignment, or assignments, and to the degree that the government is going to be able to act at all, the three branches have to "agree," or at least not "disagree." The fact that each branch can (and is supposed to) act as a "check and balance" on the other branches is one of the ways we make sure that our democratic government doesn't turn into despotism. 

Speaking about despotism, I sense some concern about the potentially despotic tendencies of our current president. Some are calling him "erratic" (raise your hand if you agree), but despotic or erratic tendencies shouldn't cause any terminal hysteria among the public, if our governmental system is, in fact, operating as it's supposed to. To have any chance of enduring over time, a governmental system must be robust enough to survive an "erratic" period, once in awhile.

Here is the bad news: I am reading what Professor Theodore Lowi has to say about the way our system is working, and he is not very reassuring that the system is working as designed. He notes that the Congress has largely delegated almost all of its policy-making power to the president, creating a "personal presidency," and that this delegation has pretty much eliminated any "check or balance" that the Congress might otherwise be expected to provide on presidential excesses. 

If you are concerned about the erratic and possibly despotic possibilities that face us under our current president, then now is the time to be in constant touch with your elected representatives in Congress. The Constitution doesn't give the president the right to decide what happens in our country, and it is the Congress, not the President, which is supposed to decide upon the appropriate policies to guide governmental action. 

Take a look at that Article II. There are really only two basic tasks assigned to the President: 

2. To "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”

Having an "erratic" president reminds us that we need to make sure that both Congress (and the courts) do the jobs to which they are assigned. That's why showing up at Congressional offices, in force, and bringing out the public to Congressional Town Hall meetings, is exactly the right way to treat the first signs of the "despotic disease" within the body politic.

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