When the framers of the U.S. Constitution met in 1787 they were tasked with rewriting the Articles of Confederation which suffered from inadequate provision for a central government.
As they wrote the portion of the constitution which separated the powers of the three branches of government it was necessary to construct a system of checks and balances that kept branch in some way dependent on the other branches while empowering that branch to be effective.
So, the Judicial Branch cannot write laws, it can only interpret laws and evaluate their constitutionality. The Executive branch nominates members of the court, rather than members of the court naming their own successors, and the nominations of the President must be ratified by Congress.
These checks and balances did not happen by accident; they came about through hard work and compromise. A number of proposals were evaluated and discarded because it was felt by others that those proposals would make one branch too powerful or too weak.
In the end the constitution established three equal branches. Again, that happened through compromise.
From the beginning of the nation politics has created friction between the branches, but the branches have done their job. Over the last thirty years the government has become increasingly less efficient and dysfunctional due to changes in what has been called the fourth rail of government.
The fourth rail is not an official branch of government, however it is as important as the three real ones.
Historically, the fourth rail has been the press, and in France the press has been called the Fourth Estate.
Beginning in 1980 with the establishment of Ted Turner’s cable news channel, CNN, the news media’s role in providing checks on government changed.
Print media had a daily or twice daily news cycle. Journalism was a profession which accepted a responsibility for printing accurate, well researched news. Newspapers kept entertainment, local news, national news and international news separate, and identified opinion as editorials.
With 24/7 news channels the lines began to blur and in recent years Fox News stated that it took no responsibility for the accuracy of the news it reported because it is an entertainment channel.
Viewers, who increasingly did not read newspapers, began to distrust news. Some Americans, intelligent people, claim that no news is really news, it is just “spin”. Honestly, it is hard to watch cable news channels and argue with that.
Increasingly, people have looked to the internet for news. Cable networks present two individuals with opposing views as fair and balanced reporting. Blogsites don’t confuse people. People just find a blogsite wher the writers agree with them and accept that sites expressed opinions as news.
The news media has lost its place as the fourth rail.
Other interests have taken its place such as lobbyists for special interests especially business. Political action groups fund members of congress and candidates for president in their campaigns for election and reelection compromising those candidates. Populist movements provided a surprisingly strong run by Independent Bernie Sanders for President, and got Donald Trump elected.
Populist movements are highly emotional and often poorly analytical, but they have a great deal of passion and energy. The group that swept Trump to power are particularly passionate and poorly focused. They have blamed what they see as a bloated federal government that is insensitive to their needs as the problem. They have not asked how Congress became so ineffective or why bureaucracies are not providing the support people need.
They see Washington as a swamp that needs to be drained, not a fruit tree that needs to be pruned. However, they are right, Washington is broken because the fourth rail of special interests has taken control preventing any meaningful action by the legislature.
Populist passion got an establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton beaten and elected a businessman with no political experience and connections with conspiracy theorists, white supremacists and possibly a hostile foreign government.
In evaluating Donald Trump’s presidency nothing illustrates his inadequacy as president more than the, now 2 day old, government shutdown.
How is Trump involved? One of the roles of the president is to let the members of congress know what provisions in a bill he wants, which are critical, and which will cause him to veto the bill.
Oftentimes, the president has to act as a mediator between political parties, branches of congress, or even members within a party. The intent of this arbitration is to get a bill through that will work. In many instances compromises have to be made by everyone and this may be viewed as a situation where no one wins, but it should be seen as one where everyone wins. Most importantly, the country wins.
All indications are that Donald Trump, perhaps because he is a businessman who sees anything less than getting everything he wants as a loss. Furthermore, he has by all accounts gotten what he wanted by bullying others; the idea that making a deal where everyone is happy is foreign to him.
Members of both parties in Congress have complained that Trump can’t be depended on in making any deal. He constantly changes his requirements. Some have blamed the advisors he has surrounded himself with, but it may be a lifelong habit of changing the terms of a deal until other parties tire and give him more than is necessary.
Stormy Daniels, the adult entertainer who seems to have had a one night stand with Trump, to whom he paid hush money, entertained this weekend in Greenville, SC, where Trump’s campaign started. A government shutdown won’t affect her business, but the lives of thousands of government employees will be affected.
It appears that not only is Trump a vile person, his personality and life experience are inadequate and unsuited for the various jobs required of a president.