by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It is not good when a body politic is so susceptible to being confounded as the United States has been. We can, of course, blame Trump — or his opponents, depending on your political predilections — but I think there is also an institutional cause for our discontents. The fact that any president could rile up the nation as Trump has is an illustration of how overgrown the executive power has become.
The notion of “coequal branches” is a 20th-century invention. For most of the nation’s history prior to the Great Depression, the president played second fiddle to Congress. This was by constitutional design. The Framers envisioned the legislature, not the president, as the fount of republican authority, and they designed a government accordingly. The presidents we recall from the first century of American history — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln — are exceptions to the general rule. …
… And what we have developed, in a relatively short span of time (less than 70 years), is a pervasive sense of presidential omnipotence and omniscience. The president appears to us to be the all-powerful master of our government, and he is everywhere.
I think this might be driving us crazy.