Executive Power

Republicans Are Learning to Love Unconstrained Executive Power

Just like their counterparts in the Democratic Party do!

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Do Republicans and Democrats have any respect for what makes America the country it is? When it comes to the country's political foundations, it doesn't look that way.

Some countries are defined by culture, others by ethnicity, and still others by language. The United States is defined by a shared, if imperfectly implemented and frayed, political tradition of limited government and personal freedom. It's a little worrying, then, when supporters of the major political parties show disdain for the constitutional constraints that supposedly embody that political tradition.

"The share of Republicans who say presidents could operate more effectively if they did not have to worry so much about Congress and the courts increased 16 percentage points over the past year, from 27% in March 2018 to 43% this past July," Pew Research Center noted this week.

Not coincidentally, the current president is Donald Trump, who was elected as a Republican. Skepticism about congressional and judicial restraints on presidential power are strongest among conservatives who make up the core of Trump's support. In the poll, 52 percent of conservative Republicans agree that "many of the country's problems could be dealt with more effectively if U.S. presidents didn't have to worry so much about Congress or the courts." By contrast, 68 percent of liberal to moderate Republicans say it would be "too risky" to give presidents more power, essentially unchanged from last year.

Unsurprisingly, with their party out of the White House, Democrats are less enamored of loosening checks on the presidency. Eighty-four percent of liberal Democrats oppose the idea, as do 81 percent of moderate to conservative Democrats, according to Pew.

But this is where donkey party fans should temper the smirks. It turns out that many Democrats' resistance to presidential power is situational; they only oppose such power when they don't control it.

"The share of Democrats saying it would be too risky to expand presidential power increased by more than 20 percentage points (from 66% in 2016 to 87% in 2017)," Pew reports in the same poll.

In 2016, Barack Obama, a Democrat, was president, to be succeeded by Trump the next year. Support for expanding unconstrained presidential power sharply declined among Democrats right after they lost control of the White House.

That squares with what other researchers have found.

"Respondents who provided higher approval ratings of the president were significantly more supportive of presidential powers," wrote Andrew Reeves and John C. Rogowski, then two political scientists at Washington University. Published in the December 2015 issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly, their paper found significant similarities between Republican and Democratic views of presidential power in the abstract; basically, a majority of partisans of both parties thought the presidency should not be able to act unilaterally.

But—and it's a big but—those numbers shift dramatically when people considered powers being exercised by a specific president they really like.

The researchers "evaluated whether the public president should be able to exercise unilateral control of the military, keep certain information concealed from Congress and the public, veto legislation passed by Congress, appoint judges of his choice without Senate consent, direct agency implementation of policies passed by Congress, and create new policies through unilateral action without having Congress vote on them."

"Across each of the six measures, respondents who provided higher approval ratings of the president were significantly more supportive of presidential powers."

The ability of presidents to harness support to stretch the boundaries of authority might explain why the power of the presidency keeps growing, Reeves and Rogowski suggested.

While numbers for both groups shifted along with control of the White House, Republicans in 2019 seem to support unconstrained presidential authority to a somewhat greater extent than did the Democrats polled by Pew in 2016. That might suggest a greater degree of authoritarianism among fans of the current president than among supporters of the last one.

More likely, though, is that we're watching the continuing erosion of the tradition of limited government.

The "cult of the presidency" (as Gene Healy called it in his 2008 book by that name) wields "an increasingly expansive set of presidential powers," in the words of Reeves and Rogowski. It does so at the behest of partisans cheering on their champion when they're in power and is only ineffectively and temporarily opposed by those who hope to hold the presidency again.

Opposition to presidential power, and adherence to constitutional constraints, have become entirely instrumental, to be supported by those out of power and abandoned once office is recaptured.

That's why Democrats can criticize President Trump's use of executive orders at a pace exceeding that set by President Obama, only to promise to do the same when they hold the presidency. They even laugh off the idea of restraints on the power of a future non-Trump president.

And that's why Republicans are such fans of Trump unbound after spending years railing against the excesses of his predecessor.

Republicans and Democrats may despise and attack each other with ever-nastier vitriol, but they agree on one thing: Many partisans of both the legacy parties reject America's tradition of limited government and a president of defined and constrained power when it limits them. A large share of each faction wants a maximum leader—so long as it's somebody from their team who gets to crack the whip.

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  1. Does Reason not have a dictionary? I dont think they know what unconstrained means. They keep using that term and I dont think they know what it means. Trumps term has set records for national injunctions for even basic rules well within precedent.

    For Christmas can I send Reason a bookmark to dictionsry.com?

    1. In common parlance, unconstrained is based on context, Jesse. For example, when you say you have an unconstrained enthusiasm for making a fool of yourself, that does not mean you do it at a speed that exceeds the firing capacity of your neurons.

      1. Chipper. Ever showing himself the idiot. Unconstrained has a definition, it is not based on context. And even if you want to base it on context this administration has been the most constrained by judges, by appointees, by career civil servants, by the media, and by the House. Even in context the administration is one of the most constrained in recent memory. No ACA, no DACA, no DHS, no Medicaid part D, etc etc.

        You come across as really fucking stupid in every post.

        1. Even in context the administration is one of the most constrained in recent memory. No ACA, no DACA, no DHS, no Medicaid part D, etc etc.

          No Vietnam, no Cuban Missile Crisis, No New Deal, No Packing the Supreme Court, No suspension of Habeas Corpus (and/or that wasn’t derived directly from his predecessor)… The only context where this presidency has been unconstrained is the one with copious amounts of TDS.

        2. Unconstrained the word may have a definition (which you have conveniently not provided), but the context matters for what those constraints are. Your constraints on spewing nonsense are different from Trump’s constraints on spewing nonsense and both are different from Lizzie’s constraints on spewing nonsense.

          But context is a difficult constraint for you to understand, so you stomp and shout to hide your ignorance.

          1. You light yourself on fire for… spite?
            Mmmkayyy
            You do you

      2. To put it more simply for the village idiot… trumps two biggest accomplishments so far are reducing tax takings from citizens and appointing the most libertarian justice weve seen. Yet you buy into the narrative that Trump is an authoritarian expanding executive power. On top of that he has reduced federal regulations, relinquishing even more power. His other actions fall within scope of precedent but even there he is constrained for doing previous regulations such as DACA. Tariffs have been used throughout American history, there has been no expansion there. So basically all you’ve done is proven yourself an idiot. An idiot who also needs a dictionary.

        1. Tariffs have been used throughout American history, there has been no expansion there.

          Yeah by acts of Congress. Only Congress can tax per the Constitution. But I guess that oath of office he took to uphold the Constitution doesn’t matter because Bush and Obama also did it (more limited but did it). Which by the way is the point of the article, that each successive presidency grows in power because their supports are ok with greater expansion of government power as long as their guy is wielding it. Way to prove JD right.

          1. The law that congress passed authorizes the president to change tariff rates under many different circumstances, and presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton and Bush all used that authority at various time whilst implementing their agenda. Maybe you should consider not being a lying retarded chunk of cunt slime?

            1. I forgot about that part of the Constitution that allows Congress to just amend the Constitution by passing a law. Silly me expecting them to you know pass a Constitutional Amendment to amend the Constitution.

              1. Oh and what great company Trump keeps then: Obama, Bush, Clinton and Bush. Great American small government heroes the lot of them!!!!

                1. Well see, Trump is The Great American Hero because he escaped the constraints of his illegal immigrant grandfather by inheriting his wealth. Obama, Bush, Clinton(s), they are all just former Presidents, they are gone from the White House and never could have been the hero that Trump is.

              2. I forgot about that part of the Constitution that allows Congress to just amend the Constitution by passing a law.

                Congress largely abdicated its power over trade to FDR more than three decades ago but it’s Trump and the Republicans fault.

                1. So Obama wasn’t a bad guy at all then, eh? You just shifted the blame back 80 years. Oh wait, FDR was just three decades ago? My bad. Carry on.

                  1. Oh wait, FDR was just three decades ago?

                    “more than three”

                    Also, don’t text and drive, kids.

                    1. There’s no making sense of bitches scorned

                  2. I see we failed to understand context and the plain meaning of words again.

                2. Every time the Republicans help expand the growth of executive power, yes that is their fault. Who else would you blame for their actions? Of course the Dems are greater or equal to in blame; I’m not arguing that they don’t suck.

                  1. The power to negotiate tariffs and trade were largely abdicated to FDR by a Democratic Congress. Reagan imposed tariffs on Japan. Nixon established trade relations with China. The idea that Trump and Repubilcans are doing something unprecedented is dumb and overtly ignores much of history. Especially when the majority of them think no further expansion of executive power is needed.

                    1. Then have Congress authorize him to conduct Trade policy within expressed limits. Not unrestrained power to act on his own however he feels.

        2. trumps two biggest accomplishments so far are reducing tax takings from citizens and appointing the most libertarian justice weve seen

          Those are Trump’s most admirable accomplishments. And it’s worth pointing out that both of those happened within the context of how separation of powers was intended. So they are really irrelevant to this conversation.

          Trump’s overreaches with respect to Executive Action (the point of this article) have resulted in ever increasing tariffs, a ban on bump stocks, and diversion of funds to a border wall. He has also talked about executive action banning certain vaping products.

          And I wouldn’t say that Trump is any different in his expansion of executive power than his predecessors. But that’s hardly an endorsement of him or his actions.

          1. But Jesse informs us that tariffs are not taxes.

            Trump is good, that’s all you have to remember.

          2. And yet you and Reason believe that DACA, an unconstitutional and unconstrained power grab by Obama are just fine. So much for railing against presidential power.

            Now go ahead and do your alternative legal analysis which is completely unsupported by federal case law about how the US cannot control immigration.

            Reason was rending its garments over the tax cuts becauswe the welfare state MUST be funded, and now you and they are whining about tariffs. Pick one. Are taxes good or not? Necessary or not?

            Reprogramming funds under existing law is not a power grab; it’s a power explicitly granted to the president by legislation. If you want to call Congress stupid for doing so, be my guest, but it’s hardly an overreach.

            He has also talked about executive action banning certain vaping products.

            How DARE he! Such hate speech cannot be allowed! Actually it’s the FDA making those noises, again under existing law. This is hardly a royal decree much as the TDS crowd needs it to be.

      3. Eunuch, you’re not supposed to tape the “kick me” sign to your own back

      4. Depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is, right you shit brained Democratic shill?

    2. Trumps term has set records for national injunctions for even basic rules well within precedent.

      And that pisses you off, doesn’t it?

      1. Where do you see anger dumbshit? The misuse of words and false narratives are annoying. You suck their dicks.

        It is amusing watching the ignorant fellate false narratives.

        What a clown.

        1. Where do you see anger

          Here:
          dumbshit
          You suck their dicks
          It is amusing watching the ignorant fellate false narratives.
          What a clown.

          As was noted in the article:

          Many partisans of both the legacy parties reject America’s tradition of limited government and a president of defined and constrained power when it limits them

      2. It should since it’s without precedent in American history, but hey, Orange Man Bad and all that.

        Hey, remember that time you gargled Obama’s balls after he told a federal court to go fuck itself when it ruled his executive amnesty unconstitutional and again when a federal court ruled his executive offshore drilling ban unconstitutional?

        1. Orange Man Bad

          Most NPC line ever.

          1. Most NPC line ever.

            I can hear the voice you typed this in.

        2. Orange Man bad?!? He BAD, all right! He SOOO BAD, He be GOOD! He be GREAT! He Make America Great Again!

          We KNOW He can Make America Great Again, because, as a bad-ass businessman, He Made Himself and His Family Great Again! He Pussy Grabber in Chief!

          See The Atlantic article by using the below search-string in quotes:
          “The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet”

          He pussy-grab His creditors in 7 bankruptcies, His illegal sub-human workers ripped off of pay on His building projects, and His “students” in His fake Get-Rich-like-Me realty schools, and so on. So, He has a GREAT record of ripping others off! So SURELY He can rip off other nations, other ethnic groups, etc., in trade wars and border wars, for the benefit of ALL of us!!!

          All Hail to THE Pussy Grabber in Chief!!!

          Most of all, HAIL the Chief, for having revoked karma! What comes around, will no longer go around!!! The Donald has figured out that all of the un-Americans are SOOO stupid, that we can pussy-grab them all day, every day, and they will NEVER think of pussy-grabbing us right back!

          Orange Man Bad-Ass Pussy-Grabber all right!

    3. If you really wanted to educate, you;d provide a definition right here. You are literally unconstrained from doing so. Even the 1500 character limit has been removed.

      Obviously you’d rather just think you appear snug than educate. Carry on!

    4. This is a dumb take. You clearly didn’t read the article.

      1. Well there’s a compelling rebuttal.

  2. The president can’t “abuse” power he or she doesn’t have. Maybe Congress should eliminate those powers that aren’t given the president in the constitution? I know, that’s crazy talk.

    1. While I agree Congress needs to get off its ass, doesn’t the president swear an oath to uphold the Constitution? Shouldn’t they be bound to that oath?

      1. ^EXACTLY — When strong executive power is seen as a “good thing” is when it’s directly inline with “upholding the U.S. Constitution” AGAINST Congress.

        Thus is where Democrats ERROR resides and how they differ from Republicans who support a Republic form of government instead of a mobster Democracy form.

        1. This is actually the Judicial Branches Job – which was obviously obliterated when FDR thwarted the Judicial system by stuffing the courts. Which of course is the very reason the Democrats worship FDR for entirely destroying “The Peoples” only supreme law enforcement that protects them from their own government and turned the whole process into mobster Democracy.

    2. Riiiight, that’s how Obama made illegal appointments (for which he was not impeached). His pen and phone never did anything wrong.

  3. Do Republicans and Democrats have any respect for what makes America the country it is?

    Well, the Democrats openly champion socialism and “fundamentally transforming” what America is all about and Republicans are just Democrats in the slow lane so I’m going to have to say “No”. They both *talk* a lot about patriotism and our shared values and such but you know they’re full of shit – like yesterday at the impeachment hearings when the Dems seemed to have this strange new respect for our Constitution and the evil dead rich white slave-owning gun-toting transphobic male pieces of shit who wrote it nearly a hundred years ago.

  4. In before all the lib commentators post about sucking cock, licking balls, and eating ass.

    1. That said, still no mention of any possible effect on this pole of non-stop partisan investigations by the House, and judge shopping for injunctions that have no merit other than Orange Man Bad.

      1. Orange Man is The Chosen One, however, has ALL of the merit in the entire local galactic cluster!

        1. At least you didn’t put much effort into not being funny this time.

    2. Look, I know you’re all excited for that, but there’s a time and place for such talk, and this isn’t it.

  5. Republicans Are Learning to Love Unconstrained Executive Power

    I don’t understand this notion that Republicans are just now tiptoeing towards a statist mindset. Republicans have been massive statists for many decades.

    1. LOL… I think the term you’re looking for is actually ‘Minarchism’ as EVERY OTHER encompassing part of ‘Statism’ is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats.

      “Statism can take many forms from small government to big government. Minarchism is a political philosophy that prefers a minimal state such as a night-watchman state to protect people from aggression, theft, breach of contract and fraud with military, police and courts. This may also include fire departments, prisons and other functions. The [[welfare state]] is another form within the spectrum of statism. [[Totalitarianism]] is that which prefers a maximum, all-encompassing state.”

  6. “The share of Republicans who say presidents could operate more effectively if they did not have to worry so much about Congress and the courts increased 16 percentage points over the past year, from 27% in March 2018 to 43% this past July,” Pew Research Center noted this week.”

    I’ve noted in the past that the public’s opinion and trust in the news media seems to be a pretty consistent counter indicator of the public’s opinion on President Trump–going back to before the 2016 election. The Gallup polls on Americans’ trust in the media sank to a new low of 32% a few weeks before the presidential election of 2016, which should have indicated that support for Trump was surging. It’s easy to see what’s driving that inverse relationship. When the news media was dominated by negative coverage of candidate Trump, the public’s opinion of the news media was dominated by their opinion of the way the news media was covering him.

    https://news.gallup.com/poll/267047/americans-trust-mass-media-edges-down.aspx

    As the Mueller report and Russia probe were coming to a head, if you asked Republicans what they thought of the way Congress and the courts were treating President Trump, is it any wonder that their views of Congress and the justice system were negative?

    In order to attribute the opinion of average Republicans on this to a change in principles, you probably need to assume they were ignoring what was happening in the news at the time. It was generally understood by Republicans back then that Congress, the media, and people within the justice system–up to and including the leadership of the FBI–were all fixated on seeing this president impeached over Russia. Under those circumstances, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see that support for presidential power became a polling proxy for whether the president should be impeached.

    For those of you who can’t see the pattern here, if and when President Trump is impeached, we should expect to see a downturn in the public’s opinion of the news media and a big upsurge in support for presidential power. If President Trump were to be removed from office, we would see support for an authoritarian presidency rise to unprecedented levels. The thing that drives all forms of populism is contempt for the opinions of average people by elitists, and the only that would scream contempt for the opinions of average people like removing President Trump from office in an election year.

  7. You do realize that, the way that question is worded, that a President would be more effective without having to deal with Congress, answering “yes” is a statement of fact and not an endorsement if the idea that a more effective executive is desirable.

    The people answering that way may indeed think it is desirable, but you cannot assume that from the answer. The other results cited are comparing the answers to different questions than obscure whether the conclusion is justified.

    1. Obama eve stated the same thing when he claimed he would be able to get more done if the US was more like China. He wasnt actually endorsing becoming authoritarian communists ruled by a political party. But reason rarely analyzes the poll question, especially when it reinforces a narrative like the Authoritarian Trump administration.

      1. Conceivably, Republicans could be supporting presidential power because of the things he’s done that are anti-authoritarian.

        When Obama signed us onto Iranian and Paris Climate Change treaties, and used executive power to inflict DACA on Congress, not only without Congress’ support but after Congress had voted relief for “dreamers” down, he was acting like an authoritarian.

        When Trump undid that stuff, he was acting as the antidote to these examples of authoritarianism.

        1. No, no, no. Using an executive order to nullify a previous, unconstrained power-grab executive order is just as wrong. Wronger in fact!

  8. Reason pretends to hate executive authority while defending Obama-era executive orders that they argue now have the full force of a law, and has literally asserted every single day since Trump was elected that unelected bureaucrats in the executive department should have full authority to make policy without the input of the president, and to subvert whatever policy that president has proposed. It’s almost like this entire magazine is a radical left wing propaganda mill whose sole reason for existing is to promote supranational global governance and cultural Marxism.

    1. “It’s almost like this entire magazine is a radical left wing propaganda mill whose sole reason for existing is to promote supranational global governance and cultural Marxism.”

      If you keep repeating this, I bet it’ll come true someday.

      1. Sienna Miller’s tin-foil hat needs some SERIOUS realignment!

      2. Now that’d be something I’d pay to see.

      3. Much like Reason repeating that they have libertarian principles.

    2. Jesus Christ, do you actually believe this crap? You’re fucking insane, bro.

  9. Yeah, no. Nobody on the right “loves” it. It’s a necessary evil. Undo executive fiat with executive fiat.

    1. +100

    2. ^^ WELL SAID!

  10. Trump is the greatest President in over 80 years.

    His actions to further American interests have sent even reason staffers into a TDS tailspin.

    1. Good work, comrade! There’ll be an extra shot of vodka for your coffee today.

  11. didn’t Obama once opine publicly on how he wished he had the powers of a dictator like Russia and China or something along those lines. now that Authoritarianism

    1. Obama also said he would put his boot to the neck of anyone who disagreed with him, Now thats Authoritarianism

    2. I don’t recall him saying that. I do recall BeBlasio saying things to that effect,

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    ────────────────║║
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    ____________________________________________________

  13. Sadly this seems to be the new normal. Politics are less about getting your ideas passed and more about holding power. It is not just the Presidency that affected. You see it at the state and local level. Parties that used to emphasize local decisions change when they control the next higher level of government.

    1. If only it were only that bad. Actually now it’s about sticking your tongue out at those you want to stick your tongue out to.

    2. Gosh, do you think, “Elections have consequences.” and “I have a pen and a phone.” had something to do with that?

      Nah, just a coincidence.

  14. Republicans Are Learning to Love Unconstrained Executive Power

    You must be new to our country. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to the United States of America.

  15. Given that Trump’s use of executive power has been much more constrained than Obama’s, and that people approve of Trump, it seems like they prefer what Trump is doing.

  16. More constrained than President Obama, really! I think the Trump has pretty much ruled through executive power. I don’t see a whole lot of legislation he has moved through the Congress. President Obama did use executive authority but he also moved a lot legislation. As for approval Trump has yet to break 50%, usually hovering around 40%. So I don’t think people like what he is doing.

    1. Yes, really. Trump has limited himself to those powers that the executive branch clearly has: reducing regulations, undoing previous executive orders, immigration, and foreign policy. Name anything Trump has done that comes even close to executive overreach like Obama’s DACA, ACA, or Title IX abuses.

      As for approval ratings, Obama’s was at times lower than Trump’s. And it was Obama that started the massive partisan divide.

    2. A “lot” of legislation? Like Obamacare? And what of all the creative accounting to prop it up for years such as declaring Congress a small buisness so staffers could qualify for healthcare subsidies, or unconstitutionally reimbursing insurers?

  17. Republicans have been comfortable with unrestrained executive power since Lincoln suspended habeus corpus in 1861.

  18. Comparing Trump and the current tactics of the GOP with any other level of power-hungry politicking by any other political group in U.S. history is puny, puny, false equivalence. To say liberals seek a dictatorship, which is what Trump seeks, is a lie borne of inbreeding.

    When Reason goes groveling.

  19. I think you are wrong. Democrats respect the Constitution and rule of law while Republicans have NO RESPECT for the Constitution, nor for any other law in this country. Open your eyes: Actions speak way louder than words.

    1. Actions do indeed speak louder than words. Pen and Phone Barry showed that. Using an EO to commit the US to the Paris Climate non-treaty treaty sure showed a respect for the constitution. Remind me who has to approve treaties again and by what margin?

  20. Could it be that Republicans are not much different from Democrats? Sure, they have separate agendas, but a politician is a politician, no matter the stripe. And for sure and for certain, none can be trusted or even care about the people they supposedly serve.

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