Poor Donald: The Constitution is Working…..Against Him
Some conservatives love to talk about the Constitution and how we need to get back to honoring that document, that supreme law, in order to set right the ship of state. And, no doubt, they have a point. There are more than a few practices that have arisen in the last few decades – and before – that are inconsistent with the Constitution, e.g., that presidents may do almost anything that serves, in their minds, national security. But one thing these conservatives often don’t appreciate sufficiently is that the Constitution is, as one commentator put it, “a machine that goes by itself.” And this is what Donald Trump is – or should be – finding out now.
Consider the above article from today’s NY Times, entitle “Trump’s Budget is Aspirational. Reality in Congress Will Change It.” In brief, what this article points out is that Trump’s proposed budget is or will be “dead on arrival” in the Congress, as expressed by Lindsey Graham, a leading Republican senator. And what this means is that that old constitutional principle, the separation of powers, is working and it is, as it was intended to work, working against the current president of the United States. As the article puts it: “Like many presidents before him, President Trump is pushing a bold budget proposal. But for a business executive used to getting his way, he is likely to find, as his predecessors did, that final budgets often bear little resemblance to the originals after being run through the shredder on Capitol Hill.”
You see, as this makes clear, the political arena is a very different kind of place than the business arena, because in the latter “business executives” are “used to getting [their] way.” Presidents have no such luxury and, of course, the shouldn’t have it insofar as the political world is a far more complex place than the business world. And because the political world is far more complex than the business world, it is not only necessary but commendable that different points of view are represented; for example, that the views of popularly elected representatives of the people, legislators, need to be taken into account along with those of elected and unelected executives, i.e., presidents and cabinet officials.
Or to put this in another way: bold proposals are not always, in fact rarely are, the way to go in politics. Bold moves, e.g., invading Iraq, making war in Asia, invading Cuba, or overthrowing democratically elected governments ala’ Iran, are most often than not disastrous. And this is especially true of bold moves not encased in legislation. Hence, the power and the prerogatives of the executive department, where boldness seems most appropriate, are limited.
This is the “theory” of our Constitution and one of its main characteristics, the separation of powers. And this is what is proving to be the undoing on the Trump presidency right now. In the near future, we will find out if Trump is educable, if he is able to comprehend and accept the reality of constitutional, i.e., limited government. If he does, he just might make a dent in the status quo as it is currently configured. If he does not, his presidency, like so many of those who have preceded him, will be perceived as a failure.