There’s a lot of things about a Trump presidency that are concerning. His personality, which is characterized by misogyny, racism, sexism and hatred, is manifested in many of his policies. He has stated the desire to deport millions of illegal immigrants and their children (who are legal citizens). He supports torture and has advocated forms that are even more extreme than waterboarding. He’s even called for killing families of terrorists. He’s proposed barriers to trade. He wants to reduce libel laws so that he can sue media that writes anything negative about him–a serious affront to free speech. He wants to build a wall on the border, which is both expensive and ineffective. Most of these plans are expensive, unconstitutional, and require a totalitarian government for enforcement. And unfortunately, former presidents have set some egregious precedents, constructing an ideal framework for such an administration. This is a startling reminder of why it is important to limit executive power.
The executive branch grew significantly under Bush and Obama. A president now has the power to kill any person, even an American citizen, without due process. A president can detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial. Precedents have been set for racial profiling and spying on U.S. citizens, even when they are not accused of any wrongdoing. Precedents have also been set for torture and unconstitutional wars. This is unsettling given many of Trump’s ambitions listed above.
Even if people were confident that Bush or Obama could be trusted with these powers, which is itself generous, it’s still worth considering that these people won’t always be the president who has access to these powers. When considering executive powers, it’s important to consider what that power would be like in the hands of an oppressor. Even if you’re one of the 47% of voters that support Trump, and you trust him with these capabilities, consider that he won’t always be president. Ask yourself if you’d want Hillary to have the powers that he will now yield. Think of the worst candidate possible, and imagine that person winning office in 2020. THAT is why it’s crucial to limit executive power. It’s not about disliking Bush or Obama, or even Trump. No person should have the types of powers that the U.S. president currently has. In the words of Penn Jillette: “The president should have so little power that it doens’t matter who they are…instead of having so much power that it doesn’t matter who they are.” If the executive branch hadn’t been expanded so much during previous administrations, we could be more optimistic that Trump’s policies would end up being more bark than bite. Instead, we have a president elect who has voiced repugnant views toward many groups of people and now has the authority to kill them without charges or a trial.