The Last President

I was hoping that Donald Trump would be the last president. By that I do not mean that I wanted him to serve in perpetuity, but rather that he served as proof that having a president at all is a detriment to democracy.

I have long argued that we should end the office of the president. This is because I always felt that as soon as any one person in a society has more power than any other person, the door is wide open for corruption and subversion of democracy. The US always had this attitude that it could not happen here due to our checks and balances. During the Trump administration we observed that the constitution’s checks and balances are not enough to stop a malignant narcissist and demagogue from using their enhanced power to destroy democracy in order to maintain and increase power. And we are not out of the woods yet. Had Trump/Barr continued, democracy in the US would be on its last gasp or already dead.

I have had discussions on ending the presidency and I have never heard a good counter argument. Mostly I hear people say “we need a leader.” Really? Why? We do not, in any way shape or form, need a singular leader. What I would propose instead would be to make the executive branch consist of a number of executives. In essence we remove the presidency and replace the office with the various secretaries. The secretaries would become elected officials with staggered terms like the senate. The benefits here, to me, would be that it would be highly unlikely that a majority of the 15(?) secretaries would all be willing to destroy democracy, and no one secretary could do it without the support of the majority. And since they would not all be elected at once, it is far less likely that the entire executive branch would be elected based on some ephemeral negative sentiment pervading the US at a specific time.

I have had people say we need a leader as a face for foreign relations. OK, sure, and that would be the Secretary of State. Or they argue that we need a commander in chief of the military. Ok, fine, that would be the Secretary of Defense. A bonus is that we can then elect people who are qualified and experienced in the field for the position to which they would get elected. We no longer have to say “I like this guy’s stance on domestic spending, but hate his foreign policy ideas” and be forced to pick the lesser of two evils. Instead we can focus on one skill area and pick the people best suited for each area. What a concept! I personally do not want a jack of all trades, master of none running the country.

That said, when congress passes a bill and sends it to the executive branch, the secretaries get together and vote to either approve it or veto it… or perhaps even better, once a bill passes both houses of congress, it becomes law. Veto power solely in the hands of one person is a power the president has that I think goes against democracy. Why should one person be able to override the will of the people?

Well, actually, as I am sure you know, congress does not accurately represent the will of the people due to the Senate with its non-representative numbers and the filibuster. In what world can a country where 35 votes beats 54 votes still be called a democracy?

So the idea is to decentralize the executive branch and to me this is a great idea with only upsides and no downsides, but unfortunately it is a hard idea to sell because so many, even educated people, cling to the idea that “we need a leader” without ever being able to come up with any good reason as to why.

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