Will Democrats Embrace the Imperial Presidency Now That Their Guy Is in Charge?
After Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, I hoped that “electing a preening, petty, thin-skinned, whiny, vindictive, vacuous, mendacious, boorish bully” would prompt “a reconsideration of the absurd hopes and cultish veneration that surround the presidency.” I suggested that “a ridiculous president will encourage Americans to take the presidency less seriously.” And as Trump went on to assert various kinds of extraconstitutional authority, I hoped that example would encourage his opponents to see the wisdom of dethroning imperial presidents and restoring the separation of powers.
With Trump gone, however, some Democrats seem determined to forget that lesson. “Joe Biden Must Not Shy Away From the Full Power of the Presidency,” says the headline above a New York Times op-ed piece by University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner. “During the presidential campaign,” Posner notes, Biden “was not shy about criticizing then-President Donald Trump for abusing his executive authority.” But Posner, who seems to be drawing the wrong pointers from his 2020 book The Demagogue’s Playbook, warns that such constitutional concerns are dangerous to the Democratic agenda now that Biden has replaced Trump. As Posner sees it, untrammeled presidential power is a problem only when Americans make the mistake of electing the wrong president.
“Many Democrats think that a lesson of the Trump years, culminating in the siege of the Capitol, is that presidential power needs to be curtailed,” Posner writes. “Power that has accreted to the presidency over the years should be transferred back to Congress. Executive branch agencies, above all the Justice Department, should enjoy more autonomy. Oversight of the presidency should be strengthened. Only with such reforms can we be sure that future presidents will not abuse their powers.” But “Democrats should be careful what they wish for,” he says, because “a weakened presidency would hamper national governance, and Democratic policies in particular.”
The Constitution assigns the legislative power to Congress, which can pass new laws only with the approval of both chambers. But that requirement is awfully inconvenient, Posner complains, especially for Democrats. “The Democratic margin in the Senate—zero—is too slim for Mr. Biden to push ambitious laws through Congress, which is balky and slow even when majorities in both houses are broadly in agreement with the president,” he writes. “Congress by its nature moves slowly and gets little done, which often suits Republicans just fine, as they tend to prefer the status quo.”
Worse, “congressional approval requires the consent of the Senate, which is disproportionately influenced by conservative senators from largely rural states.” Posner worries that “if power is moved from the presidency back to Congress, national policy will shift to the right, on average, over time.”
In short, Posner thinks constitutional constraints are fine when the president is a Republican but should be ignored when Democrats are running the
Article from Latest – Reason.com