Sunday, May 4, 2008

Partisan Politics And Presidential Powers

It makes me laugh to hear presidential candidates say what they are going to do as president. This is especially true of things that need fixed immediately and not in 10 months when the candidate will finally get the keys to the White House. It also ribs me to hear people talk about the reasons not to elect a particular candidate for president. "he is going to come to our house and take our guns away." Has to be one of my all time favorites. However the fact that a preacher for his church said some stupid things is up there. (Never mind that the other candidate has had 6 of their closest business associates charged tried and convicted for various versions of fraud. Some of those people were even pardoned buy the candidates husband prior to leaving office.) Most voters seem to not understand exactly what a president "can" and "can not" do. General ignorance of the "checks and balances" system is a social norm throughout the voting public. A while back I told a story about my wife and voting. I think it is worth telling again.

My wife once asked me who she "should vote for." I had to restrain myself from imposing my own political views and try to educate her on what is best for herself. This required an explanation of checks and balances as well as partisan politics. I had to explain fast, as my wife’s attention span on these topics is very limited. What I said to her was this. You have three options. I can’t tell you who to vote for. All I can tell you is that if you want to pick the candidate that most closely resembles your own beliefs and judgments. To figure that out you are going to have to research them, their voting record, and their platform.

If researching the candidates isn’t your bag, then you can research the parties. Generally Republicans believe in smaller government, less taxes, fewer social programs, smaller budgets, and more supply side economics. They are staunch supporters of the right to own guns and oppose laws to restrict that right. They also oppose abortion and would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned. With the same generalization, Democrats believe in more social programs such as welfare, universal healthcare, and Medicare. They believe in higher taxes to pay for their programs. They believe these programs empower the less advantaged of our culture to rise up and do better. Democrats are strong supporters of the freedom of speech and believe in a more open government. They believe that an abortion is a woman’s right to choose. They often are the champions to new gun control laws.

If researching the party platforms is too much effort, I told her she can ask herself one simple question. "Am I happy with life, the economy, and taxes right now?" If the answer is "yes" then she should vote for a president from one party and congressmen and senators from another party. This will ensure that absolutely nothing will get done. (This is the situation we are in now.) Life will stay "as is". Now if the answer to the questing is "No, I’m Not happy with the current status.", then I recommended she pick a party and vote for a presidential candidate that most likely will be of the same party as the majority of the congress and the senate. This will ensure things will get changed, however, it will be a throw of the dice. We the voter have no control over what those changes will be. It could make things worse or it could be better.

That was the advice I gave her. She ended up voting for the person that she knew I was supporting. "Go Dennis".

As for people’s ignorance about what the president "can and "can not" do, here is a little education. A president can not make laws, bills, or create a policy. They can not directly influence the economy, so to speak. I say that reluctantly as the current president has found multiple ways to influence the economy negatively through his only real direct power. The president has only direct control over the military. Even then, he has to get a congressional approval to go to war. But the policy is so vague over what constitutes "war" that there really is not much of an obstacle. Originally the Korean and Vietnam situations were "police actions" that were only called wars de’ facto. So unless there is a clear majority of the presidents party controlling both congress and the senate, these guys can promise the world. However, if they can’t get the legislative branch to introduce a bill and then pass it, their promises might as well be written on your bathroom roll. Yes that is right my sheep. Gas taxes, Universal Healthcare, tax breaks, withdrawing troops, and getting pigs to fly out of my butt is not really in the hands of your president alone. The thing he can do is say "yes" or "no" to whatever bill comes across their desk. Now of course if his party is in control of the legislator, he can make recommendations or even write bills and have them sponsored in congress. However, if the makeup of the congress stays the way it is right now, the only power the new president will really have will be to bring the troops home. This is the only promise they have direct control over. All that other stuff, they would have to sell to a legislative branch members sure to be bitter if their candidate didn’t win.

The other thing a president can do is nominate Supreme Court judges. Again, he will still need an agreeing legislative branch to get the nomination confirmed. But recent past history has shown that the public expects no more then 3 nomination to be rejected or they start getting antsy.

So if there is to be points taken from this post it would be these. Don’t vote for a candidate just because they make promises to impose policies. They may never get a chance to sign them into law. If you vote for a president who is known and experienced in Washington circles, expect the same old backwater. They didn’t get that experience by standing their ground. They owe people favors. A president can make war and get a BJ in the oval office and that is about the extent of direct control. Without help from others, that is it. Caste your vote for the candidate who won’t "rip off the bank." This is why character and ability to be sincere, truthful and convincing is so important. This is true no matter what office you are nominating for. Judge them by their friends. The ones they spend long days working with and not a few hours listening to while half asleep in church.

No comments:

Counter text

New counter