It’s time to check the president

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm from Unsplash.com

In today’s age of polarization, the executive branch has essentially unchecked control of the government. Legislators of the president’s party currently exist to rubber-stamp his appointments and initiatives. Even under the best of conditions, whenever Congress passes a law, the responsibility of implementing that legislation ultimately falls to the agencies (under the control of the president). We’ve seen what this looks like with Homeland Security changing the rules on asylum such that the tired, poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free now must do so on the other side of the Mexican-American border. We’ve seen the results of this: thousands of asylum seekers have been raped, killed, and assaulted. They’ve been left to live in squalor packed in what can only be described as a shantytown or tent city without proper access to clean water or sanitation. Gangs kidnap those they suspect of having relatives in the US in order to extort payments for the release of these hostages. The DHS even violated orders by the Supreme Court and continued to send notices of deportation, restrict acceptances of new DACA applications, and more. This same DHS had CBP officers (whose names were removed from their uniforms) throw protestors into unmarked vans without having any arrest warrants or providing due process.

These are just some of the many decisions made by the agencies the president controls outside of Congress’s oversight. We’ve also seen the remaking of a Justice Department in the President’s image. Anyone who disagrees with him is fired, the DOJ is no longer interested in investigating civil rights abuses or financial crimes, and all of a sudden the main enemy of the people are the Tech CEOs critical of the president. Even better, we had a Secretary of Commerce try and ask citizenship questions on the census for the sole purpose of malapportioning congressional representation and federal funds. This is the same department that has now ended the census early, in the middle of a pandemic, because they know those hardest to reach are more likely to live in Democratic districts.

Yet another story of corruption is the defunding of the postal service and the decision by our current Postmaster General to cut overtime payments to workers, get rid of mail sorting machines, and remove blue postal boxes during the largest mail-in election of all-time. What we’re looking at is transparent corruption of a kind never seen before. When every week is a Watergate, we’ve grown immune to scandal. Republicans, looking to protect the President at all costs, have been willing to strip the legislative branch of all power and provide the President carte blanche to violate any and all laws, procedures, and norms. Moreover, they have stood by while the executive refuses congressional subpoenas, obstructs the investigations of special counsels, and fires whistleblowers. Blatantly-partisan Republican judges and justices have pushed a unitary executive theory with little basis in their supposed “originalist” beliefs that once again allows the president to do whatever he wants.

Our system was designed to give broad powers to the president, but it never anticipated the level of unprecedented corruption this president would bring. There was a flawed assumption that the Senate would not be infested by spineless sycophants, that the Congress as a whole would look after the interests of the people. We need to check the power of the executive, beginning with providing additional independence to the Department of Justice such that the president and his henchmen are no longer allowed to flagrantly break the law. Moreover, we need a system that increases the independence of agency heads such that they no longer serve at the pleasure of the president. It is abominable that the Supreme Court decided the Consumer Protection Bureau is no longer allowed to be run by someone with a fixed term, and instead the president is allowed to hire and fire individuals as he pleases. The president, through executive order, is now transitioning many Competitive Service civil servants (those who are hired based on merit and fired based on cause), into a new class F within the Excepted Service, such that we inch closer to the spoils system of yore where the entirety of the executive branch was hired and fired based on loyalty to the president and his party. Instead of increasing the president’s powers we need to pull it away, granting more power to the legislative branch, and increasing agency independence. We cannot survive with a completely partisan government. In an era where the president lies every time he opens his mouth, the press office sees a revolving door of secretaries whose sole job is to deceive the public, and major news outlets have turned into government propaganda offices, there is a need now, more than ever, for non-partisan experts with the freedom to speak truth to power. A government completely run by partisan interests cannot function. We need people who actually handle data objectively instead of manipulating it to thwart the other party. We need a CDC that isn’t strong-armed into allowing DHS to use Title 42 as an excuse to expel 200,000 people from our country without proper hearings. We need to know that our government actually works before we turn into another Russia, Turkey, or North Korea.

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