In the thunder of a presidential campaign, it is sometimes hard to remember that the president of the United States is the head of just one of three equal branches of the federal government.
The president cannot raise or cut taxes, expand or contract the defense budget, commit the US to treaties or amend the US Constitution. There is very little that a president can do without the consent of at least a majority of US senators, who are under no obligation to support the president’s agenda, and a majority of the US House of Representatives, lawmakers who face the voters every two years -- and likely have the ulcers to prove it.
On television, the presidency could easily be mistaken for a monarchy, with all the pomp of red carpets and motorcades. The truth is very different. The American system of government has a fire alarm in every corridor of power -- and many opportunities to break the glass and knock down the blaze of an ill-advised policy.
Some people call that gridlock, but it’s the founders’ design. After an election like the one we have just had, at least half the country may be newly persuaded of its wisdom and foresight.
No one should mistake the end of the campaign for the end of the dispute. Americans have deep and sincere disagreements about the causes of the nation’s most pressing problems: the lack of economic growth, the deficit of new jobs that pay enough to support a family, the increasing cost and decreasing choices of health insurance, the unaffordable cost of college, the threat of terrorist attacks in US cities and the persistence of violent turmoil abroad.
In order to accomplish anything during the next four years, the president-elect will have to work with the US Congress in a constructive manner that respects the views of tens of millions of Americans who voted for a different candidate.
With respect to vacancies on the US Supreme Court, nominations should be made with an understanding that public confidence in the court is essential to public confidence in government. The Senate has the power to reject a nominee who might put that confidence at risk for any reason.
That is just one of many checks and balances that are built into our system to limit the power of those who are elected to high public office. The US government was not designed for perfect human beings, but for the other kind.
(The Orange County Register)