by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Barrels of ink and countless hours of news time have been devoted to President Trump’s casual embrace of unilateralism and authoritarianism — with good cause. This is, after all, someone who says, “Presidents can do whatever they want.” As president, he has now issued more executive orders than Barack Obama, of the infamous “phone and a pen,” did over the same period. He has asserted the power to redirect congressionally appropriated funds, wage war, and ignore subpoenas.
Rhetorically, Democrats have loudly criticized this latest iteration of the imperial presidency. Yet, out on the campaign trail, the Democratic presidential aspirants have been quick to embrace a view of almost unlimited presidential power.
We now shrug off the grandiose promises of candidates to remake the economy, establish universal health care, and so on, as if Congress had no say in the matter. But when the need to build a legislative consensus does come up, the candidates simply promise to do it themselves.
Former vice president Joe Biden has criticized the use of executive orders. However, his website clearly states, “On day one, Biden will sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track.”
Elizabeth Warren has already promised more than a dozen specific executive orders on issues ranging from immigration to worker non-compete clauses, from banning fracking to “requir[ing] every federal agency to incorporate diversity as part of their core strategic plan and create support networks through a government-wide mentorship program that centers Black and Brown employees.”