The risk, or trend, of executive overreach has existed for decades. Presidents of both parties have been confined and frustrated by our checks and balances, and have sought to expand the power of the executive at the expense of the other branches. But Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University, thinks there is something different about this president’s power grab:
James Madison fashioned a government of three bodies locked in a synchronous orbit by their countervailing powers. The system of separation of powers was not created to protect the authority of each branch for its own sake. Rather, it is the primary protection of individual rights because it prevents the concentration of power in any one branch. In this sense, Obama is not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system; he has become the very danger that separation of powers was designed to avoid…
I happen to agree with many of the president’s policies. However, in our system, it is often more important how we do something than what we do. Priorities and policies and presidents change. Democrats will rue the day of their acquiescence to this shift of power when a future president negates an environmental law, or an anti-discrimination law, or tax laws.
To be clear, President Obama is not a dictator, but there is a danger in his aggregation of executive power.
Our system is changing in a fundamental way without even a whimper of regret. No one branch in the Madisonian system can go it alone — not Congress, not the courts, and not the president. The branches are stuck with each other in a system of shared powers, for better or worse. They may deadlock or even despise one another. The founders clearly foresaw such periods. They lived in such a period.
Whatever problems we face today in politics, they are of our own making. They should not be used to take from future generations a system that has safeguarded our freedoms for more than 200 years.