Liberal Column: The executive dilemma


In my last article, I argued that Speaker Pelosi should have taken advantage of the government shutdown by bundling a border wall with several important parts of the Democratic platform. I argued that the wall was inevitable, so there might as well also be funding for projects that would normally never get funded. Well, it has been about a month since my article. And I was right.

It is not only a shame that the House Democrats did not end the shutdown with funding for the wall, but it is also confusing. They chose to forsake a prime opportunity to get key legislation passed by leveraging a border wall, which is disappointing. However, they did this while seemingly knowing about the recent “Green New Deal” proposal.

My conservative counterpart, Jeremiah Poff, did a good — though a bit harsh — critique of the “Green New Deal” that seems to be sweeping at least the new faces of the Democratic Party. As Poff noted, it is new and bold and absolutely absurd. However, if this is the direction that seems to be the future for the party — despite Speaker Pelosi’s hesitant support — then it is confusing why it would not bundle at least some of the proposals with the appropriations bill. Perhaps Democrats could have tried to include reasonable green initiatives to get the ball rolling (before it goes insane).

If the Democrats truly want the success of their platform, which may soon include the “Green New Deal” that is controversial even within the Democratic Party, then why not make President Trump choose between his border wall and killing the “Green New Deal?” Many people have criticized Speaker Pelosi for her political ideology. However, she now not only has a deficient ideology; she seems to have deficient strategy as well.

Alas, these possibilities are the past, and we are here now with no “Green New Deal” (so far), no advancement of the Democratic platform (except, perhaps, the murder of infants) and a border wall on the way.

Some have argued that the means of obtaining the border wall — by declaring a national emergency — was an illegitimate, unconstitutional exercise of President Trump’s executive powers. However, one must remember that President Trump is invoking this authority from a legislative act: The National Emergencies Act of 1976.

The real issue here seems to be the question of strong executive power in general. Over the past century, much power — arguably too much power — has been centralized to the federal government and to the executive branch of the federal government. What people seem to forget is that strong executive power is nice, except when your side does not control the executive branch.

Today’s dilemma rings back to an issue that is almost a century old. At President F. D. Roosevelt’s, the author of the original “New Deal,” first inauguration speech, he also sought to end a crisis, saying, “I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency.” It is this request that has characterized the political situation of the presidential office since then.

As the Electoral College is called into question, as the president exercises more and more power and as politics becomes more divisive, a decision will need to be made. Should authority move even more up or start to go down? Are we to emphasizes the United or the States of America? As the Catholic liberal columnist who values subsidiarity, I am not hopeful.