Barring a fluke in next month’s presidential election (the real one), Donald Trump will assume office in January. Many are still upset following the show election this month. I’d be upset if I were Trump. The man is walking into a 240-year-old mess.
Lawrence Vance offered a little advice to Donald on what NOT to do once he’s in office. He begins with the Constitutional duties and powers of a president:
The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.
The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
That’s from Article II of the Constitution. That’s all the president has to do. Really, if we had honest government, that would be all he could do. We do not, so the executive has expanded its reach far and wide.
I’ll pay attention to the second to last part of the foregoing, faithfully executing the laws. That’s one of the areas where real Constitutional law and general governance that gets murky. To begin with, there are way too many federal laws to consider executing. Most have no fidelity to or grounding it the Constitution (see Article I). People have either forgotten the place of the laws or they have accepted dictatorial rule from Washington. The result is the same either way.
Trump could begin to turn things around, to reverse a little of the statism, to “make America great again”. He could do this, partially, by ignoring (not executing) illegal laws, laws not based on explicit Constitutional authority.
Vance alludes to that concept in his second to last “don’t”: “Don’t enforce unjust federal laws.” Saint Thomas Aquinas reminded us that an unjust law is no law at all. Federal laws, to be positively just, must accord with the limits of the Constitution. The Constitution, in turn, is just to the extent it is in harmony with Natural Law.
There hasn’t been a lot of harmony of late – natural, positive, or otherwise. Trump can change that if he faithfully executes the laws, if he executes the laws that are faithful to the Constitution.
This is asking or hoping for a lot. Praying for an impossibility perhaps. Time will tell.