Presidential Powers, and The Smart Kind of Partisanship

So even after looking at that title, you’re still reading this?  Alright…

The way we usually talk about partisanship makes it sound like it’s all bad news — like partisanship is a disease that must be cured before we have a healthy democracy.  That’s only a little bit wrong.  Blind partisanship — the kind that knows no reason and ignores inconvenient facts — is a crutch for people who just don’t want to think too hard.  It’s a cyst on both major parties, and it’s the reason our two-party system is a mess.

But there’s good partisanship, too.  It’s the kind you don’t see very often, because it’s wonky and dry and can’t be filtered into five-second sound bytes.  If you have a guiding political philosophy that is well-thought-out, you’re bound to be partisan on any given issue.  And you’re bound to argue against those who disagree with you or who lack their own intellectual compass.  This is the kind of partisanship that has a rightful place in political discourse; our democracy depends on it.

The Federalist Society — sometimes wrong but always intelligent — is an example the smart kind of partisanship.  Never to let a good argument die, they’ve published a piece on “The Top 10 Ways Obama Violated the Constitution During His Presidency.”  It’s good stuff, if you like that sort of thing:

Are these really the kind of powers President Obama and his progressive enablers would want their worst enemies to have? As my colleague Gene Healy writes in the latest issue of Reason, “the very idea of ‘President Trump’ seemed like a thought experiment a libertarian might have invented to get a liberal friend to focus on the dangers of concentrated power. Now it’s an experiment we’re going to run in real life, starting January 20, 2017.”

If you live by executive action, you die by executive action—whether that means reversing President Obama’s policies or pocketing his constitutional excesses for future use.

And that’s the real issue now.  Even Progressives should admit that Obama pushed the boundaries of the President’s Constitutional authority (as Bush had before him).  Presidential power is like the neck hole on a fine cashmere sweater — once it’s been stretched out, there’s little hope of tightening it up again.  So now President Trump puts on the loose, saggy expanse of a sweater that Obama left for him.  It gives him plenty of room to wiggle around, and it’s up to him whether he wants to wear it or throw it out.

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