Lewis Morris / Nov. 6, 2020

Don't Trust in Presidents

With the office grossly exceeding constitutional bounds, it matters too much.

The 2020 presidential election is guaranteed a place in the history books. The highest level of voter turnout in generations. More votes cast than for any candidate in history. An extended polling period that has essentially replaced Election Day with Election Season. Chaos in the streets as businesses boarded up and prepared for riots. Legal challenges in multiple states that threaten to drag the results out for weeks.

This election is also notable for something less easy to quantify. We are witnessing epic levels of anxiety and anger that is dividing families, ruining relationships, and making our workplaces toxic environments. Social media has become a hotbed of vitriol and rage.

It all prompts a very important question: Are these two presidential candidates really worth all this? And are either of them capable of addressing the fundamental problem that our country faces?

The sharp rise in the power of the executive branch since World War I has mistakenly led many Americans to believe that the president is capable of solving all our problems. We place increasing faith in the power of the presidency, turning away from our local leaders and organizations and making every issue one that must be decided on a national level in a one-size-fits-all fashion. This is antithesis of the principles upon which our country was founded.

Congress has had its role to play in this tragic affair. Over time, this once-august body — the one the Constitution sets as the first among equals — has shed much its constitutional authority as a legislative branch to unelected federal agencies so that its members can focus on what they really want to do: get reelected. Lawmakers have shrugged aside making hard decisions, passing the buck to the bureaucracy or to the president and upsetting the delicate balance that holds our government together.

In a reasonable time, the choice between our leaders in any given election was based on a set of policy prescriptions put forth by the candidates. They and their surrogates debated the issues, hit the campaign trail, and the voters made their decision based on that. There was even a time back in the 19th century when presidential candidates didn’t campaign at all. It was considered beneath the dignity of the office to have to actually ask people to vote for you.

Fast-forward to 2020, where we’re told (as we are every cycle) that the presidential election could lead to Armageddon, with the future of the republic hanging in the balance. There are significant issues of concern that will greatly affect the country depending on who ultimately wins this contest. But there is also an issue that neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden can fix. In fact, it’s one they’ve both done their part to make worse.

The cultural and social divisions that have arisen in our country in recent years threaten the fabric of our republic more than any one presidential candidate. We have become a nation that seems more focused on embracing our differences — ethnicity, race, sexual preference — than our commonalities — yearning for freedom, raising a family, making a living. We’ve been conditioned by a parasitic media to believe that those who do not embrace our viewpoint are mortal threats to our country.

Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute points out that we cannot hope for a top-down solution to what ails our country. What is needed is a recognition of our personal responsibilities and straightforward integrity. Only in our own communities and in our local governments can we find a way to repair the damage done to our political and social discourse.

We are a nation of free-thinking people who are quite capable of making the decisions that guide our lives. We should not give in to the unrest generated over this election because it’s simply not worth it. Or at least it wouldn’t be if the presidency remained inside of its constitutional bounds.

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