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The nation needs checks and balances

Updated: May 10, 2022

There couldn’t be a more compelling example of the urgency to vote in the upcoming midterm election than President Trump’s recent threats to overturn the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution with an executive order. This is America’s foundational document. A change can only be initiated by two-thirds majorities of Congress or the states and can only take effect after three-fourths of the states have ratified it. There is no path for a president to change the Constitution.

Yet this president boldly asserts that he can.

The founders anticipated someone like our current president being elected, and built checks on runaway executive power into the Constitution by setting up co-equal branches of government. They never anticipated one of those branches, Congress, would forgo exercising that power. Yet, to date, the Republican-controlled House and Senate have shown little inclination to challenge President Trump.

That’s something North Carolina voters need to keep in mind when they select the 13 men and women from this state who will represent us in Congress come Nov. 6.

With the Republicans in control of the executive branch, Congress and now the majority on the Supreme Court, there is grave concern that the current president believes and demonstrates he is in control of the entirety of government. Additionally, he attacks the free press calling it the “enemy of the people” and attacks all of his critics and anyone who challenges his authority. He attacks the nation’s historical allies, embraces the authoritarian regime in Russia, tells lies continuously and threatens to end the probe that is investigating him and his presidential campaign. With the control that our 45th president holds over the branches of government that are designed to provide checks and balances, we have the makings of a government where far too much power rests in the hands of one man.

A dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government where power rests with one ruler. Today there are at least 24 dictatorships in the world. The United States is not one of them. But the very fact that some now worry that what might once have seemed inconceivable is even remotely possible is alarming in and of itself.

Many would argue that a dictatorship cannot happen in America. Author Jim Powell a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute outlines eight points that can lead a nation towards an authoritarian form of government:

  • Bad economic policies and foreign policies can cause crises that have dangerous political consequences.

  • Politicians commonly demand arbitrary power to deal with a national emergency and restore order, even though underlying problems are commonly caused by bad government policies.

  • In hard times, many people are often willing to go along with and support terrible things that would be unthinkable in good times.

  • Those who dismiss the possibility of a dictatorial regime in America need to consider possible developments that could make our circumstances worse and politically more volatile than they are now – like runaway government spending, soaring taxes, more wars, inflation and economic collapse.

  • Aspiring dictators sometimes give away their intentions by their evident desire to destroy opponents.

  • There’s no reliable way to prevent bad or incompetent people from gaining power.

  • A political system with a separation of powers and checks & balances – like the U.S. Constitution – does make it more difficult for one branch of government to dominate the others.

  • Ultimately, liberty can be protected only if people care enough to fight for it, because everywhere governments push for more power, and they never give it up willingly.

By this standard, a president who starts tariff wars with China and threatens to undo Constitutional amendments raises alarms. Add to that a Congress whose spending policies increased the deficit by 14 percent in 2017 and there’s real cause for worry.

With the pending election, it is imperative that Americans vote and elect candidates who will protect our republic that has long been a beacon of hope and leadership for the world. Elections have consequences and those elected provide the direction for the nation. And yes, every vote counts.

Our president has demonstrated that if things are not going his way, it is a conspiracy of the deep state. Examples include the “rigged’’ 2016 election when the polls indicated he would not win the presidency. He did not believe the unemployment numbers during the past administration, arguing that they were fake. When the numbers continued to improve during his administration, they were the best ever.

We have had imperfect and untruthful leaders before, but they’ve been held in check by our system of government with its separation of powers. Never in recent history has that system felt more fragile.

The election of greater consequence is the 2020 presidential election. If the current president loses the 2020 election, will he accept the results or will he refuse to vacate the office, saying the election was rigged? What as a nation do we do at that time with a president who exerts control over the Congress and the Supreme Court and drives the nation into a perilous constitutional crisis?

As the Cato Institute’s Powell pointed out, liberty can only be protected if people care enough to fight for it. Now more than ever, it’s critical to care enough to become informed and vote.

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