Presidential trivia:How big is the power of the US president?

In 2019, Trump’s “repairing the wall” led to a constant chaos in the US internal affairs. In order…

In 2019, Trump’s “repairing the wall” led to a constant chaos in the US internal affairs. In order to fulfill the promises of voters and get the “huge” funds to build the US-Mexico border wall, the Trump administration and the Congress were deadlocked, and the government stopped for 35 days, creating the longest record in the history of the federal government. The Democratic Party members in Congress have firmly stated that they will not release the budget plan. Under the predicament, Trump announced that the southern border of the United States entered a “national state of emergency”, trying to empower the president under this law, bypassing the regular appropriation process of the Congress, and using administrative orders to allocate funds from other sources to build the border wall.


Presidential trivia:How big is the power of the US president?
Presidential trivia:How big is the power of the US president?

Trumpā€™s announcement of a ā€œstate of emergencyā€ triggered a series of political turmoil and legal challenges. The Republican and Democratic partiesā€™ struggles over the governmentā€™s budget turned to debates about presidential power and the existence of administrative power. The voice of opposition is concerned that this behavior has adversely affected the democratic system of the United States. It believes that the presidentā€™s violation of the Constitution violates the security of the military and the state from the defense funds and violates the exclusive power of the Congress. What they are more worried about is Trump’s further expansion of the president’s powers, such as Trump’s creation of a “very dangerous precedent” that could “cause the future president to abuse his power.” So, what power does the US president have? How are these powers embedded in the constitutional system of the United States? What changes have been made to the content and scope of power? What restrictions are imposed in the exercise of power?

Presidential power expansion history

Today, the US president is at the top of the US political system. When we turn our attention to American politics, the first thing that comes to mind is the presidential position. However, the phenomenon that the president is regarded as the core figure of American politics did not appear until modern times. Before the 20th century, Congress was seen as a more important branch of government.

If the founding father of the United States sees the modern presidential system of the United States, it will certainly be a big surprise. More than two hundred years ago, many founding members expressed doubts about the necessity of setting up the Chief Executive when they formulated the 1787 Constitution. The presidency has been inevitably limited in the design of the presidency, such as the president must be independent of the legislation, the president can not serve for life, and so on. According to the provisions of the first three articles of the Constitution, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers belong to the Congress, the President, and the courts. Each branch is equal and shares power, and does not allow a person or a department to assume powers and responsibilities. As James Madison, the chief architect of the American system, said, “use ambition to contain ambitions.”

The change in presidential power and the structural transformation it brought were bounded by the 20th century. An important reason was the emergence of the “eloquent president.” Before the 20th century, most presidents communicated with Congress and the public in written rather than speech, and rarely spoke on specific policy initiatives. At the same time, the US government is not only small but also local, which means that the influence of the federal government is smaller and the role of the president is not great. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt first broke the practice of proposing policy recommendations to Congress in the form of a written report, directly targeting the American people, seeking public opinion in support of the Hepburn Act in the form of public propaganda. Woodrow Wilson also surpassed the presidential system in practice. He initiated the annual practice of personally speaking the State of the Union speech before the joint meeting of the Congress. This is almost an important matter on each president’s agenda. The President listed in the State of the Union address the proposals that he hoped Congress to adopt in order to gain political momentum. The presidents of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson coincided with the great transformation of the United States to a world power and made active explorations for the new role of the US president.

ā–³In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt met with drought-stricken farmers in North Dakota

In the 1930s, during his tenure, Franklin Roosevelt experienced the “Great Depression” and the Second World War two crises, becoming the only president in the history of the United States to be re-elected for four terms. He widely used broadcasting to develop charm and express individuality, further expanding the role of the president and weakening the constitutional restrictions on the government. This made Roosevelt a myth. People began to link the president with images such as “heroes” and “God” and asked the president to play a bigger role.

At the same time, the United States became a global power in the two world wars. The reconciliation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War made the president’s role and position in foreign affairs and the military forces supporting him particularly important. The presidentā€™s sole and final decision on nuclear power makes him a position that ā€œcan shake the entire planetā€. It can be seen that the power of the modern president and the power and influence of the government he led have been very different from those of the founding fathers of the United States.

Presidential power struggle account

Article 2 of the US Constitution stipulates that the President is the head of state, the head of administration, and the commander-in-chief of the three armed forces. It is the highest representative of the United States to the outside world and the power of the whole. In contrast, Britain has a tradition of collective rule, and even the best prime minister, such as Winston Churchill, has a limited impact on government behavior. Therefore, the President of the United States is regarded by many as the most powerful person in the world. But when we understand the reality, we will find that the presidentā€™s power seems to be subject to various restrictions, and the president is only one of the many forces that exert influence on the decision-making process.

Judging from the actual operating system, the power of the current US president is largely set up for the United States to play its role as a major power in the world and the role of the federal government in the US system. The president must still be part of the system and other The main body of power interacts and runs in. In this way, the ability of the president to play a role in the American system is also built in this interactive process. Whether the president himself wants to expand his power or the times require the president to exercise greater power, it will not necessarily lead to presidential power. growth of.

The two-party system in the United States can be said to be a real obstacle to the implementation of power after the president takes office. American political parties should be produced in response to the needs of the US presidential election. The focus of competition among political parties is the election of the US presidential position. The political party becomes the ruling party through the president’s coming to power, and thus gains more state power. The importance of the overall reunification has made the competition around the two-party system more and more fierce. The four-year US presidential election is always accompanied by a hot and dramatic campaign to attract the attention of people all over the world. In the course of the campaign, the presidential candidates under the propaganda package of political parties often generously make various promises to the people that are often difficult to fulfill, and hope to win the hearts of the people, which makes the government power exceed the restrictions set by the founding people in the constitution. And continue to expand.

Of course, the struggle between the two-party system in the United States does not stop at the end of the presidential election. The existence of the two-party system has always faced constraints from opposing party forces during the reign of the president. For example, if the president abuses his power or is suspected of violating the law, the House of Representatives can open the process of impeaching the president. Although Trump won the presidential election in 2016, he has been plagued by the US Congressā€™ investigation into the presidentā€™s ā€œTongmen Gateā€. The Democratic Party has not given up on the impeachment of Trumpā€™s impeachment.

In addition, since members of both houses of the US Congress are also elected through elections, sometimes the opposition party will win more parliamentary seats than the ruling party in the parliamentary elections. All the legislation in the United States must be approved by the two houses. In the case that the majority party in the Congress is different from the presidential party, the “supernatural” president has also become a “lame duck” and power is greatly restricted. In the mid-term elections of 2018, the Democratic Party regained the House of Representatives, which caused a major setback in the legislative agenda during Trumpā€™s term. The President of the United States cannot do what he wants. Even if Trump only wants to build a border wall, he has always been “unwilling to pay for it” under the opposition of the Democratic Party.

The presidentā€™s desire to grow power often encounters obstacles in the implementation of power. Frustration makes the president willing to bypass Congress and find reasons to rationalize his own practices. For example, when the president’s policies are opposed by the majority of the Congress, they often use administrative decrees to advance what they want to do. And when Congress tries to cross the newly implemented administrative regulations again, the president can exercise the veto power.

Presidential power flex zone

In global affairs, the President of the United States has the power to safeguard the countryā€™s global leadership, and its every move has attracted much attention. In domestic politics, the status of the US president is also important. The US president can enhance the political influence through the guidance of the public and the shaping of the domestic political agenda. However, in terms of power, there is a variable elastic range for the power of the US president. The influence variables mainly have two aspects: personal style and institutional factors.

First, the president’s personal style will influence the power of the president. For example, the stronger the desire for power, the more inclined it is to control more details, the more digging of power points, and the more comprehensive coverage of power. A president who has a relatively loose power and a relatively open position may be more willing to hand over part of his power to his subordinates. Eisenhower was the supreme commander of the Allied forces during World War II. He was elected president of the United States with considerable prestige. But for a long time, scholars thought that he was only the person in charge of the name, and his aides were the real decision makers. After years of deciphering the internal archives of the president, it is recognized that Eisenhower is actually only used to achieving political goals in an indirect wayā€”not directly involved in policy activities that are incompatible with his non-political image, so he is more willing to avoid Openly debate and hand over controversial policies to the aides. The move is to balance the power of the US president, to highlight the function of the head of state, and to weaken the role of the head of government. In addition, the political interest of the president is also an influential factor in the implementation of his power. Eisenhowerā€™s main interests are in foreign policy and national security policy. Therefore, he is not as sophisticated as the National Security Council in analyzing and discussing the institutional procedures of domestic political policy. In short, although the power and duties of the President of the United States make this position seem to have extraordinary requirements for the incumbent, this position is actually an ordinary person with flesh and blood. Their personal style is very different from the exercise of the presidency. effect.

Second, institutional factors are also a point that cannot be ignored. Compared with the first article of the US Constitution on the “one-on-one enumeration of power” possessed by Congress, the second section of the Constitution describes the presidential system in a short period of time, and the statement of the president’s power is rather vague, even without any detailed definition. Talking about “administrative power.” Obviously, the president has specific responsibilities and separate powers, such as dealing with foreign relations, denying parliamentary legislation, and defending the country as the “Commander-in-Chief.” However, many of the presidentā€™s powers have been intentionally weakened or confused. For example, the president must meet the premise of the Senateā€™s approval when he exercises executive powers, executive ambassadors, and federal judges in foreign affairs. The president exercises the veto power. Negating the draft law of Congress is also carried out under the premise that Congress retains the power to overthrow the presidential decision again; although the president is the commander-in-chief of the three armed forces, the declaration of war is completed by the Congress, and the president can only exercise this duty without the intervention of the Congress. Therefore, the presidentā€™s power is deeply constrained by the constitutional institutional framework. In addition, the conciseness of the constitution brings about the unclear provisions of the articles, which makes the interpretation of the constitution very flexible. The right of interpretation plays an important role in the struggle of political power. The famous “Marbury v. Madison case” is Judge Marshall. The ingenious response, the establishment of the judicial system to explain the constitution, the determination of government behavior and the legislative action of the Congress is unconstitutional. Therefore, the presidentā€™s power flex zone will also be affected by the constitutional power of interpretation.

Through the combing of historical development, reality and power elasticity, we can re-examine the power of the US president from a multi-dimensional perspective. The political power of the president is not static, but is always in the process of dynamic change. Under the constraints of the large institutional framework, the power of the US president has expanded with the development of the times, constantly discovering and reorienting his position; presidential power is also swaying in the game of various forces, and maintaining the system in the process The horizontal balance; the presidential power is more with the president’s distinctive personal style imprint, and the diversified ruling model makes the ruling process full of possibilities. It is not difficult to understand that in the case of Trump as the President of the United States, on the one hand, because of its versatility and uniqueness, it will bring more uncertainty to US policy; on the other hand, even if it is ā€œunpredictableā€ For example, Trump must also abide by the logic of American political operation to exercise power and achieve its goals in the game of various political forces.

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