Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Is the Latest Sign of the Presidency Becoming a Monarchy
President Joe Biden’s national vaccine mandate sparked a lot of debate and set political seismometers jumping even more frantically than usual. Most commentary has focused on two issues: Is forcing people to take vaccines a good idea, and will the courts sign off on the government’s authority to do so? Those are great discussions to have, though anything involving “forcing people” should be a non-starter by default. But another important question is raised by the president’s gambit to displace the Afghanistan fiasco from the headlines: How, in the United States, can one guy just impose his preferred policies, whether they’re good, bad, or indifferent?
To be fair, not everybody overlooked this point:
“There’s no authority for this,” former Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) noted. “This is legislative action that bypasses the legislative branch. If you care about representative government—if you’re consistent regardless of who’s president—then it doesn’t matter that you like the policy; this mandate is an abuse of power.”
Since this is America in 2021, the replies to Amash quickly degenerated into arguments over the benefits of vaccines (or their allegedly nefarious side effects) and assertions that the courts will certainly rule for/against the move. But again, how can one person do this in a country with a Constitution that lays out the limited powers of the state, and provides for two other co-equal branches of government? It’s as if the president has become a king—and many people embrace the development, so long as they like the outcome. In fact, that’s a fair interpretation of the system under which we live, and the direction in which it’s evolved from the beginning.
“We elect a king for four years and give him absolute power within certain limits, which after all he can interpret for himself,” then-Secretary of State William Seward observed of the presidency during the Civil War. Admittedly, he described President Abraham Lincoln, whose powers were enhanced by the crisis. But it’s not like the presidency snapped back within benign limits after the fighting ended.
“Great Britain is a republic, with a hereditary president, while the United States is a monarchy with an elective king,” the Knoxville Journal snarked in 1896 during the presidency of Grover Cleveland, who was one of the less autocratic chief executives. But the implicit and growing power of the presidency remained, even when the office was held by somebody who exercised a modicum of restraint.
The fault lies in the Constitution itself, claimed conservative legal scholar F. H. Buckley in his 2014 book The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America. He pointed out that all Anglosphere countries were trending towards concentrated executive power (something only accelerated by the pandemic), but claimed that America’s presidential system, despite built-in checks and balances, in practice lent itself to what he called “elective monarchy.”
“The constitutional presidency, as the Fr
Article from Latest – Reason.com