Friday, February 10, 2017

Open Letter to Donald Trump: Checks and Balances

Welcome to American Democracy! Not a Kingdom, not a Dictatorship, and not a Communist Police State. A democratic Republic. Our American Democratic Republic has been in existence, functioning well, for much, much longer than anyone alive today. Thanks to strong and real leadership, the Civil War did not destroy the country but showed us where we needed to improve to honor those who fell during that war and ushered in years of beneficial change. But how could the men who wrote our governing documents have known how to create our democratic Republic. Many were motivated to create a government that would insure freedom for its citizens, rule of law, equality under the law, and a representative government -- not the monarchy that they had suffered under.

Most adult Americans today studied how the Founders feared any one part of government gaining too much power, feared a monarchy in which the people had no say, and were determined to insure freedoms that we take for granted now. Freedoms that they did not necessarily have. Freedoms that anyone living in a dictatorship can tell you they want...desperately.

To look at a business analogy: there are some companies that are run as a dictatorship with financial and operational secrecy, in which employees must do as they're told whether or not they agree, are not encouraged to speak up in dissent, are not encouraged to offer new ideas, the management style is by fear, negativity and the suppression of innovation, and there are no checks on the power at the top. Whatever the dictator says, goes.

Then there are companies that have Boards of Directors, shareholders who share in the risk of ownership, that operate with financial and operational transparency, that encourage innovation and their employees to speak up, share new ideas, and are open and positive with a management style that supports employees and productivity, and there are checks on the power at the top because power's not consolidated as in a dictatorship.

The American Constitution written by the Founders, voted on by them and those they represented, provided instructions on what the American government would be. Amendments have been added over the years after being voted on by Congress and the States, and the first 10 Amendments, the Bill of Rights, outline the freedoms and rights of the American people guaranteed by their democratic government. Described within the Constitution is the structure of the American government, its processes that will best achieve results in a government by the people, for the people and of the people.

You vowed, Trump, when you took your Oath of Office to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is your duty now, part of your job -- maybe the most important part -- to protect and insure our democracy, democratic processes, and freedoms, to enforce and uphold the law. When you took your Oath, you were also accepting the Constitution as our governing document, and accepting the laws contained within it.

It is the law of the United States that our federal government has three branches: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. The Executive and Legislative branches work together to write and pass laws, and uphold the rule of law in this country. The Judiciary's job is to insure that those laws do not violate the Constitution. In addition, the Legislative branch also checks the actions of the Executive branch. The three branches balance each other out as well as work as checks on each other. That's their job. They serve at the pleasure (and the vote) of the American people whom they represent, except for the Judiciary. This branch is not political, not elected, and must be impartial.

So the President, the top person in the Executive branch, serves the American people -- ALL of them, not only the people who voted for him or her. A President ignores his bosses at his peril.

The Capitol where Congress works
 Let's take a recent example from your life: the immigration ban on seven specific countries that are Muslim majority countries, but this ban does not include all Muslim majority countries since it leaves out Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan for example. You signed an executive order implementing this immigration ban to last for 90 days for some people, 120 days for others. You did not run this order past any of the government agencies who'd be charged with enforcing the ban or who are responsible for determining the legalities of it or how it might not be legal. Your stated objective was to protect America from terrorists, a good and valid objective.  Too bad it was so poorly done, focusing on countries from which terrorists have not attacked us (and for which the previous President had already put into place vetting orders that would protect, and has protected, the country). One thing the President cannot do is take such a serious action just for show, i.e. to say that he's kept a promise, for example.

The "checks" kicked in immediately, beginning with regular Americans protesting this order at American airports. We have Freedom of the Press guaranteed by the First Amendment, and they provide an important check to government abuse of power. The Press was all over this order immediately. Finally, the Judiciary, responding to legal requests in different forms, put the kibash on your executive order, checking your power as it should, and has been reviewing appeals ever since. Will it make it to the Supreme Court? Probably. We have an 8-member Supreme Court right now -- it should have 9 members and would have had if your political party had not stonewalled your predecessor's nominee -- which means that it could uphold the Appeals Court ruling because it might not have a majority either way.

U. S. Supreme Court
 Welcome to American Democracy!  When you campaigned for president, one of the first things you needed to do was educate yourself thoroughly about the system of checks and balances, what the role of the President is, how to work with the Legislative branch (I suspect you're going to butt heads with them in the future, too), and especially the role of the impartial Judiciary. You may be president, but the presidency is not you, Trump. It is your job to serve the American people, all of them, and so far, you have really failed miserably and it's nobody's fault but your own. You are not the government, you are not the boss anymore. You are the employee of 311 million or so people.  We expect you to uphold the rule of law, stop obsessing over tiny things, and focus on the job.

The American democratic republic is not run like a dictatorship business. You want results? I repeat: do you really want results? Then you need to master the democratic processes not ignore them. When you ignore them, when you dictate instead of propose, when you dictate instead of seek to build consensus, the Legislative branch is going to be all over you like white on rice.  Because they have their jobs to do too, and they have an election coming up in 2018 and need to pay special attention now to what their constituents want. And they took an Oath of Office to uphold, defend and protect the Constitution, too.

Checks and balances, Trump. It's not about you personally, and the faster you get that, the faster you'll be able to move on and get something done. Checks and balances. They are what make American democracy great, not you or any one person.

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