Separation of Powers is Officially Politically Dead
By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO
Our Constitution has been the exalted example of freedom and democracy for nearly 230 years, having laid out the first system where three independent branches of government work to check the others from overreaches or abuses.
Although our system has endured a civil war, two world wars, and several political scandals, it now seems to have succumb to the newly hyper-polarized environment dominating our politics.
Since the election of Donald Trump, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate have caved to his every whim, and have not only stood by, but cheered him on as he crashed through all norms of decorum and customary practices of the presidency.
Worse, for their own party, the Republicans have followed Trump as he’s abandoned the historic core policy positions of conservatives; traditional family values, free trade, and fiscal prudence.
Republicans are now following a thrice-married, egomaniac accused of assault by dozens of women who passed a tax cut that will increase the national debt by $1.5 trillion and implemented trade tariffs even on our friendliest neighbors. The party of Reagan? Doesn’t sound like it.
And Republicans have also abdicated Congress’ position as an equal power to check the presidency by supporting every one of Trump’s impulsive and destructive decisions without any restraints.
Traditional Republicans of the Ronald Reagan fan club would never fawn over dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un or Russia’s Vladimir Putin, as Trump regularly does, relinquishing America’s role of the world’s conscience.
Those old Republicans would have stood up to any free-wheeling president that posed an existential threat to their party, and more importantly, to our country.
But in today’s caustic political environment, Congressional Republicans seem too scared of Trump’s outsized cult of personality and have surrendered their long-term political standing for immediate voter approval.
What many political observers believe is that conservatives have decided to hold their noses and use Trump’s diehard voter base to secure long-term wins like judicial appointments that conservatives have failed to deliver on their own over the past 25 years.
They believe that using Trump for a few years will deliver results and then they can work to rebuild their Republican brand after he’s gone.
No better example represents that Faustian bargain than the current grudge match over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump’s pick to replace conservative icon Antonin Scalia seemed to be steamrolling toward confirmation until multiple allegations of misconduct were leveled against him.
The White House went into damage control mode, and Senate Republicans vowed to appoint Kavanaugh without even considering the serious allegations against him.
Trump and GOP leaders were in lockstep support of Kavanaugh, and only reluctantly allowed additional testimony before the Judiciary Committee.
But even before Dr. Christine Ford told her story in public, Republicans were already saying they would still vote to confirm the nomination.
Then, when a supplemental FBI background check was ordered to investigate the allegations, the White House and Senate leaders put a time limit on the review, restricted who the FBI could interview, and kept the FBI from interviewing Ford, who made the allegations in the first place.
Now, even swing votes like Senators like Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski have been bullied into following the herd in supporting Kavanaugh because the FBI report did not prove the allegations. But how could it if they were kept from interviewing key witnesses and following every lead.
Finding the truth doesn’t seem to matter to Trump and the Republicans, only victory.
Confirming a staunch conservative to the Supreme Court will tilt the balance for decades on major issues that Republicans have fought for years to control; gay rights, environmental regulations, and abortion, just to name a few.
And for Trump personally, Kavanaugh’s views on presidential powers, independent counsels, and impeachment would help protect him from potential investigations if Democrats win control of the House in the upcoming midterm elections.
So, now we have the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch working together to secure control
of the Judicial Branch without respecting the inherent balance of powers enshrined in the Constitution.
The purpose of the separation is to limit the concentration of power of one branch over the other.
No one that has watched the battle over the Supreme Court nomination can conclude anything other than that Trump is pulling all the strings and exercising undue control, through political fear and intimidation over the process in order to secure his Court appointment.
For political gain, the Republicans have blurred the lines between independent branches of government on the bet that their voters will reward them with another term or two in office.
They may be right. Republican voters may think that the end justifies the means.
But, there are more Democratic and Independent voters than Republicans, and many of those may think that the long-term damage to our form of government is a too high a price to bear.
Moderate women voters are the most likely to revolt against the Republicans for their callous responses to accusations of assault, especially given Trump’s mocking of Dr. Ford this week. The #metoo movement has made great strides to protect women from abuse, but now Trump and the Republicans are pushing right back on those efforts.
With elections only five weeks away, voters will have an opportunity to show how they feel about the political machinations going on, and they will have the last word on who wins and who loses.
If voters don’t recoil from the current political environment, we should all brace for more vitriol and corrosive political maneuvers in the future.
Left unchecked, the convergence of the three branches of government could wreak havoc on our society as we’ve known it.