Written by Frank Salvato
April 18, 2008
By Frank Salvato
When we examine the Charters of Freedom – and specifically the US Constitution – it is clear that the Executive Branch is charged with executing the laws of the land created by the Legislative Branch (with the consent of the Executive Branch via the signature of the President) and that the Legislative Branch is charged with crafting legislation; charged with debating, weighing and then enacting legislation that would become the law of the land. The Framers even established a mechanism where the Legislative Branch might “override” a presidential veto should the Executive Branch oppose legislation brought forth by an enlarged majority of Congress.
This factuality accepted, it is next to impossible, but for the bully pulpit afforded the stature of the presidency, for the President of the United States to be an effective “change agent.” While he (or she) can certainly execute executive orders and signing statements, the fact remains, it is Congress that holds the power to legislate and fund laws and government programs. Therefore, simple logic mandates that for all the tall rhetoric of “change” coming from the presidential candidates – especially the Democrats – their promises will, for the most part, ring hollow. In order to bring about real change in government, one must “change” the Legislative Branch. In this truth the American people are in luck.
By the structure of our constitutional government we find that the easiest political contests to affect are in the Legislative Branch. This is so because each of those we vote for are specific to our location, one more immediate than the other. Where the president represents the whole of the nation’s populace, our US Senators are elected by the whole of the populace in a singular state. Even more localized in voter constituency are those selected to become US Representatives.
It is for this reason that so many of the constitutionally literate take issue with senators and representatives taking it upon themselves to dabble in foreign relations. Senators and representatives are not elected by the total of the American electorate and do not officially represent the total of the American people, no matter what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would have us think. In reality, those senators and representatives who do partake in unsanctioned foreign relations are rogue and should be recognized as such.
Accepting the constitutional and electoral realities of the Legislative Branch, it is clear that it is the American people and not the presidential candidates that have the power to bring about real change, this power being the ability to easily vote to and out of office those elected officials who represent us in the US Congress. So, why is it that the American electorate is repeatedly duped into believing that it is the president who can bring about change? For that matter, why is it that the American electorate believes that the responsibility for the foibles of national government should be laid – completely – at the foot of the Executive Branch?
The answer to those two questions is one in the same. It is easier to blame one man (or woman) than it is to blame 535. That said, when one looks at the performance of those in the Legislative Branch it is clear that We the People certainly do need “change” in Washington, DC.
Admittedly, some actions taken by the Executive Branch – by President Bush and his administration – have been disappointing but when compared to the dismal performance of Congress over the past several decades it is clear that the Legislative Branch has become corrupted throughout and that they have used the tools of deception and deflection – aided by an agenda-driven media – to blame a singular man in the President of the United States for bad government executed at their hand.
It is Congress that enacts financial allocations and who is, therefore, responsible for the deficit. It is Congress that has created so many unconstitutionally mandated entitlement programs that roughly a third of our paychecks isn’t enough revenue to satisfy the annual federal budget. It is Congress that has failed to rescue Social Security. It is Congress that refuses to simplify and make more equitable the tax system. It is Congress that refuses to cease the practice of earmarking. It is Congress that is dragging its feet on funding the securing of our borders. It is Congress that has elongated the military action in the Iraqi theater of the Global War against Islamofascism by refusing to learn from their past mistake of injecting politics into military operations when US boots are on the ground. And it is Congress – the Legislative Branch – that has seated those currently under indictment for financial and procedural malfeasance.
The despotic quality of today’s Legislative Branch is not a malady unforeseen. In fact, in his Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 13, 245.4 (1784), Thomas Jefferson professed his belief that the concentration of government power in the Legislative Branch,
“...is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not a single one. One hundred and seventy-three despots [the number of the Virginia legislators] would surely be as oppressive as one... An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of the government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others...”
To be certain, our country does need “change.” But to believe that we need to rely on the three candidates vying for the presidency to bring about this change is to be deceived by those who quest to maintain their seats of power at the American public’s expense. If we are to have change it must come through the Legislative Branch. If we are to affect change through the Legislative Branch then we have to honestly look at those we elect to the US Congress and that means taking the time to be informed and to get involved...locally.
We all vote for the president. But we are all responsible – and therefore, culpable – for those we send to Congress.
Charters of Freedom
Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 13, 245.4
Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for Basics Project a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention.