by John Zielinski
As I sit here staring at a blank screen Election Day is exactly two weeks away. By the time that you read this it will be much closer. The probability that you haven’t yet made a selection of presidential candidate is extremely small. So what’s with the title?
For all of the posturing and claims about what one candidate will do on his first day in office and what the other will do in her first 100 days, the fact is that the president’s power is limited.
SECTION 2. POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE PRESIDENT
Clause 2. He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Court of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”
Let that sink in for a bit while you think about the campaign rhetoric.
While most people have been focusing on the presidency it’s important to keep in mind that 1/3 of the Senate and the entire House is up for election this year. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 8 years, you’ve seen what an obstructionist Congress can do to get in the way of a president. Depending on your point of view that may or may not be a good thing. How much thought have you put into your votes for the legislative races?
Based on the most recent polls taken by various organizations it appears that Hillary Clinton is likely to win the presidency. While it’s lovely to think that legislators will work with her for the common good of the country rather than cleaving to party lines and party prejudices, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that. You’d be better off expecting to find a unicorn in your garden tomorrow morning. Congressional Republicans have made it a point to block President Obama every step of the way to the point of refusing to even consider confirming his nominee to the Supreme Court. There’s no reason to believe that they’d behave any differently with President Clinton. For that matter, I wouldn’t be surprised if their first order of business wasn’t to start trying to figure out how to impeach her.
Right now the Supreme Court is operating with only 8 justices making for the possibility of equally split decisions – and deadlock – on any matter that comes before the court. The fact that there are 2 justices over 80 and 1 over 78 means that there’s a high probability that there will be from 1 to 3 additional vacancies in the next 4 years. Should the worst case scenario of 3 additional open slots come to pass with Republican Senators stonewalling on approval of nominees, that would mean a Supreme Court of only 5 justices. The appointing presidents of those justices were G.W. Bush (2), Obama (2) and G.H.W. Bush (1). Is that your idea of a “Dream Team”? A similar concern comes into play concerning making – or breaking – treaties.
Now, let’s consider the federal budget and taxes. As you may remember from civics class, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.” You’re a moderate or a progressive. Do you really believe that a Republican controlled House would present bills that consider the economic interests of the middle and lower classes or raise taxes on the richest Americans any more than they do today? If you do, I’ve got a bridge for sale in Brooklyn. The upshot of this is that if you’re neutral or even mildly progressive, then a Democratic majority in the House is essential.
Although the most recent polls show Clinton taking the White House, it’s important to consider other possibilities as well. “You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.” What if – heaven forbid – Trump takes the presidency?
Whether you’re progressive, moderate or even a centrist leaning conservative, and regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, are you prepared for a Trump presidency with Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate? My mind reels at the damage that could be done in only 4 years. Can you afford the risk of that happening?
The president is one person. Yes, that’s a person with literally awesome power and awesome responsibility, but our Constitution demands that the other branches of government work together with her/him. While the electorate has a say in the matter of the make-up of Congress, the say on the courts is indirect by way of the executive branch with the approval of the Senate.
Maybe you supported a Republican other than Trump. Maybe you supported Bernie. Maybe Hillary has been your choice from the beginning. Maybe you’re planning to vote for the Green or Libertarian party candidate for president. My question to you is, “For whom are you planning to vote for Representative and Senator and why?”
Here’s one last thought that may only be meaningful to some of you. You have children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews. Your decision in this election will have an effect on the lives of those kids. The exact nature of the effect and its magnitude are unknown at this point, but the fact that there will be an effect is beyond argument. What do you want to leave of the United States and the world for those and all of the other kids?