We are having a Constitutional Crisis.
I said in one of my early posts I would not write about politics because I wanted this blog to be positive and inviting to all, not just to some who might share my point of view. For the most part, I’ve stuck to my word.
But now is a time for all of us, regardless of our political position, to pay attention to what is happening in our country.
We currently have a president who is claiming congress has no right to investigate him for anything whatsoever, who is defying congressional subpoenas for anyone in his administration, present or past, and claiming he is above congress and, indeed, above the law.
The last time a president tried being above the law, it was 1972-74, his name was Richard Nixon (“when the president does it, that means it is not illegal“), and he had to resign rather than be impeached. That was a constitutional crisis, and we survived it.
Now we are in another one. Let’s hope we survive this one, too.
When the nation’s founders convened in 1787 to craft the U.S. Constitution, they created three coequal branches of government and articulated their powers in the first three articles of the Constitution. Article 1 defines the Legislative branch (House and Senate), Article 2 the Executive branch (the President), and Article 3 the Judicial branch (the Supreme Court).
It is no accident that the founders defined the powers of Congress in Article 1 of the Constitution. There was vigorous debate about whether the Executive branch should be supreme over Congress or vice versa. It was assumed George Washington would be the first president, but some wanted Washington to be president for life, or even reign as a king, with congress subordinate to the monarchy, as in England.
Other delegates, mindful of the tyrannical power of King George III over the 13 colonies before the revolution, rejected a monarchy and argued for a republic, with Congress having power and oversight over the Executive branch.
The advocates of Congressional oversight over the Executive branch won. Thus, Congress and its powers are articulated in the first article of the Constitution, and the powers of the President in the second article. The president’s term of office is four years, and the president’s principal duty is to see that the laws Congress passes are faithfully executed.
The Constitution gives Congress authority over the President and power to restrain Executive excesses through subpoena and impeachment, but does not give comparable powers to the President over Congress. Congress is answerable only to the people, through elections. The President is answerable to Congress. Deadlocks between Congress and the Executive are to be settled by the Supreme Court.
In the last two years, this president has attempted to turn the Constitution on its head, with the President having ultimate authority over the Congress and all the other activities of government. He has even said–supposedly jokingly– it would be a good thing if he were to be president for life.
From the beginning of his presidency he has expressed admiration for authoritarian dictators. He tried many times in many ways to stop the Special Counsel’s investigations into Russia’s influence in the vote that elected him. He now claims that investigation is closed, that it exonerated him, and that congress has no right to further investigate him or his administration. Thus he refuses to recognize any congressional requests or subpoenas for more testimony or records, and he now says he will refuse to work with Congress on any legislation as long as it is investigating him.
His latest act is to authorize an investigation into the origin of the Special Counsel’s investigation and to declassify all classified intelligence information so that his attorney general can build a case that the investigation into his election was treason.
If this president’s attempt to exert executive authority over Congress is unchecked, it is the path to tyranny. We have seen it happen in many other countries.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The convention deliberations were held in strict secrecy, and when the convention ended anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall to learn the results.
Reportedly, a friend of George Washington, Mrs. Elizabeth Powell, asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin answered, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
A republic–if you can keep it. Franklin’s words were never more true than they are today.
If you believe in prayer, you might want to pray for our country.