The presidential election cycle is most curious. Huge amounts of attention, debates, time, advertising, scare-mongering, hope, promise of change, promise of harkening back to “the good ol’ days”, and such. Lots of people concentrate on a singular person to hope for their future. They place an enormous amount of trust in a singular position, a singular seat of power, a singular Authority.
This is dangerous, and entirely not at all what the foundations of Democracy are built on. Democracy functions precisely because the three powers of government- that is, the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial- are split between different, independent groups. Said groups are meant to be independent, and their powers are meant to be exclusive. Each branch is given mantles, titles, and other status symbols to denote their place and Authority.
Each group is also bound by one another, and owes each branch its respect, and its vigilance. If one branch were to seek too much power, say the Executive being too strict or too lenient in its application of the law, both the Legislative and the Judicial can nullify, interpret, or create new laws to keep them in check.
This is of course, all basic and standard theory of our Democratic-Republic.
So what is most curious, as I alluded to just moments prior, is such a laser fine focus is placed on the Executive. The cries from conservative candidates, to liberal, to even the oddball independents are to “make change”, to promise new laws, lower gas prices, less taxes, more services, more freedoms, more jobs, more of the stuff that makes a modern day society, well, modern. But, many of the powers the candidates, and even sitting Presidents claim to exercise, are not exclusive, nor even partially theirs to exercise at all. The Executive should not be promising Legislative matters. That makes no sense. Otherwise, why bother with a Legislature?
More aptly, it means a super-majority, or a very large minority, can be held hostage (or the appearance and unrest thereof) by a popularly elected Tyrant. This is certainly not the point of a Democratic-Republic such as ours.
Let’s step back further, because maybe some of you aren’t quite convinced, or don’t quite see what I am getting at. The most fascinating split of the Powers comes down to how many people exclusively hold each Power. The Executive is of course held by one, the President, but its powers are extensively relegated to lower organizations, persons, and the like. The Judicial is held similarly; 9 at the top make ultimate decisions regarding the Constitution, and smaller matters are resolved by lower courts.
The Legislative on the other hand, is split into two separate houses, with each house composed of different numbers of people differently. The Senate is composed of two Senators per state, and the House a number of representatives proportional to the population of the State.
The Legislative is split far more than the other powers precisely because it has the absolute greatest of the three powers: to create laws, and amend the Constitution.
To come back to my original path, the reason this all matters is because, with so much onus on one President to carry the Executive and Legislative, he becomes a Tyrant, even if a popular one. No Executive should hold more powers than that of the Executive branch, yet many people demand the President sponsor bills, create change in Congress, and weigh in on Supreme Court rulings. As if the Executive has those powers.
More pedantically (I am great at parties, btw), The Executive should not be ruling on Legislative policy, but instead exclusively Executive Policy in carrying out the Legislative decisions.
Even though the President has veto rights, those veto rights are a checks and balances system to prevent the Legislative from becoming a kind of Tyranny, but only in so much as the Legislative passes laws for which they encroach on the Executive or the Judicial, not whether the Legislative’s law is good policy or not. So, for example, the President can decide a new law is impractical to enforce or uphold, and so veto it. The Legislative can override, and a Supreme Court can rule that its unconstitutional, thus saving the American people from a Tyrant of Many.
Of course, Congress can pass Amendments, which bypasses much of the above checks and balances, and also why its split so many ways. This is neither here nor there.
The whole point of this was to illuminate, if only briefly, the terrors of the Popular Tyrant, for which a Democracy can deprive itself of its most sacred and impregnable barriers to Tyranny: which is its Separation of Powers. Do not place all your hope for your future in a single branch of government, and don’t force that branch to take up the Mantle of another.