Has anyone noticed how much “governing” Presidents Trump and Obama have done via Executive Orders instead of the proper way, via legislation initiated and approved by Congress? The scope of executive orders, unilateral presidential decrees over which Congress has no say, has been steadily growing the last two decades. Many people love it when their guy is in office and simply bypasses Congress by issuing an executive order when he can’t get them to do what he wants. But is that really the way a democratic republic works? Sounds more like rule by the whim of one man.
Such orders are only operative while the president who issued them is in office. They can sometimes be stopped or delayed by court actions, but that’s about where any arguments that favor them end. Not only are these proclamations the unfettered rule of a single man over a supposedly democratic nation, they can have a massive effect on the economic, cultural, military, educational, and legal landscape. And they can be completely reversed by the next president. All this makes for potentially rapid, unpredictable change for the entire country and uncertainty about the longevity of policy.
NBC news ran a worthwhile editorial early this year arguing that while executive orders by Our Guy feel good, they are a tool of tyranny. Quartz wrote a similarly insightful article last year, identifying the danger as “the use of these orders as a work-around in policy areas where the president wants to do something, but only Congress has the authority to act”. What one might ask now is: with a president in office today who is less popular with his Congress than possibly all other recent presidents, why doesn’t Congress take advantage of this situation to strip or at least limit the presidency with regard to this gross abuse of executive power? Brandon Weichert explains how the founding fathers attempted in the constitution to diffuse power across multiple people, bodies, and branches for the very purpose of preventing the rule of the One Man.