Dialnet-TheSeparationOfPowersInUnitedStatesOfAmerica-3046701.pdf

294 295 presidents more frequently than not have

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295 Presidents, more frequently than not, have sought to advance purely institutional interests, to a great degree motivated by their desire to secure a “legacy” that will be looked upon favorably by future generations. American historians and political scientists, for instance, almost invariably rank “strong” presidents, those who protect and expand executive powers, as among the “great” or “near great.” On the other hand, one cannot expect the same degree of institutional interest and concern over “legacy” to be manifest among the membership of large legislative bodies since the rewards are more dispersed. These factors, taken together, help to account for the growth of executive powers, especially when one party controls both the legislative and executive branches. Under these circumstances any resistance to presidential intrusions into the legislative realm on constitutional grounds is likely to be characterized as simply “party politics.” Looking back on the Framers’ handiwork after more than two centuries of operation, certain conclusions seem warranted. The most important is that they had no way to foresee the role political parties would play in the evolution of the design. The “balance” they sought has been thrown out of kilter by the growth of parties, specifically by the growth of executive and judicial powers. In this regard, it is also evident that while they were concerned to prevent a congressional overreach, they seemed to believe -- perhaps because of the political culture of their time -- that the judiciary would pose no danger to the constitutional separation. For these reasons, it is hardly surprising that in modern times the two most contentious issues in both intellectual and political circles involving the separation of powers turn out to be the proper role of the courts and whether the executive has accumulated too much power. In the American system of separated powers today, each branch in its own way can direct the resources of society or authoritatively allocate values, powers largely delegated to Congress by the Constitution. Patterns of expectation have developed over time regarding the general domain of each branch, so that despite very real tensions, both theoretical and practical, the system works tolerably well. 106 Underlying this, however, is a very basic question: Can any system of separated powers deal with the real dangers to self-government and the rule of law posed by the necessity to delegate powers in the modern nation state? 106. Many critics of the system would disagree with this assessment by citing what is now called “gridlock,” principally the inability of Congress and the president to agree upon priorities and specific legislative remedies to acknowledged economic and social problems. Most who seek basic constitutional reform attribute this gridlock to the constitutional separation of powers. For various formulation of this view see Reforming American Government , ed. Donald L. Robinson.
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