The framers of the U. S. Constitution had a problem: the country needed an Executive, someone who would sign checks, oversee putting legislation into action, and so on. The predecessor governments -- we lump them together, but there were three, growing in scope -- had combined legislative and executive authority. It was a well-established model. It wasn't what they were after.
So we got Separation of Powers. It wasn't a new idea. It can be traced back through the English Civil War to John Calvin and on to Aristotle but most of them included a king, or at least a lifetime Executive office-holder with broad powers. The Framers were concerned about Caesarism and the appeal of Kings. They wanted something a bit more whittled-down. They didn't want it to be a lifetime job.
So the United States got a President, serving for four years at a time and with limited powers. Congress is supposed to do the heavy lifting of government while the president -- to George Washington's frustration, expressed when he issued the first Executive Orders -- is stuck with trying to make things work from day to day.
Presidents aren't kings. They're not supposed to be. They've got an emergency brake -- the veto power -- and they can issue pardons for Federal crimes, but that's about all that's left of the sweeping powers of kings.
When partisans of one side or another tell me their guy is "the last chance for freedom" or "the only way to restore our democracy," it gets my hackles up. Especially now.
If you think this country's continued existence in recognizable form depends on which septuagenarian infests the White House starting in 2021, give up now: if that's true, the country is done. Assume Presidents get the very best medical care and advice (and follow it), and you're still looking at a couple of guys whose working life has got a decade or less to go. They're not saving anything, not for very long. That kind of dewy-eyed, panty-throwing faith in any political leader isn't American, no matter how many flags you wave. It's a clearance-sale special version of Caesarism. It's not a way forward; it's a huge step back.
America's future depends not on the suit-wearer who gets "Hail To The Chief" played for them or even on which side gets a majority in Congress* but on an engaged and informed electorate, voters willing to throw the bums out when their term ends and select new bums to warm the seats of power. Whoever wins the Presidency gets the job for four years, maybe eight, and then they're out. This is as it should be: the President, any President, is Just Some Guy. Like the bus, there will be another one along in due course.
* Though I admit I'm happier when it is neither.
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