You Probably Don’t Understand Politics (Part 1)
Originally posted @ VARIAL.ASAI
I’m making some assumptions here, but you probably don’t understand politics. You probably think you do. You don’t.
I’m making a weekly series on what you probably don’t understand about politics to help inform you. I think that if you are a voter, it is your responsibility to understand what you are voting for, why you are voting that way, and how your voice makes a difference. Hopefully in doing so, you can make more informed decisions in the future.
It’s Not As Simple As A President
First, let’s start with this premise. For instance, a lot of people who voted in this election probably didn’t realize the amount of power (or lack there of) that the President has. Before going down this road, let me ask you a question: Do you know what the three branches of government are, and what they do?
First, there is the Executive branch. This is the President, his cabinet and advisors, and various other employees.
Second, there is the Legislative branch. This is Congress, made up of the house of representatives and the senate.
Third, there is Judicial branch. This is the Supreme Court who settles cases that related directly to the Constitution of the United States.
Why is it important to know these three branches and what they do and how they can enact their policies and balance each other out. So, here’s a basic rundown of that structure. By the way, all of this information is available to you by doing a simple google search for the three branches of government.
The Executive Branch
A President can create executive orders which will go into effect as law. These executive orders go into effect and then can technically be overturned both of the other branches of government. However, this is rare, as the Supreme Court requires a case to be brought in front of them before they can overturn an executive order. In addition, that order would need to be shown to be in violation of the court’s understanding of the Constitution. Congress can overturn an executive order by passing a bill that conflicts with it (which requires 2/3 of Congress to vote yes on the bill). However, any bill passes through Congress gets sent to the desk of the President who then can choose to veto the bill. This means that it can almost be pointless for Congress to do.
A more effective way to overturn an Executive Order is by having a new president elected. Presidents are able to essentially create new orders that overturn the previous orders. This means that any executive order that a president creates can be considered temporary, as any president following him can easily overturn it.
The Legislative Branch
Again, this is Congress. Congress is the actually lawmakers of the government. They propose and possibly pass bills to create or change laws. Any bill passed through Congress is able to be vetoed by the president, killing the bill. In addition, the Supreme Court is able to deem a law unconstitutional.
The Judicial Branch
Again, the Supreme Court has cases brought before it that pertain to the Constitution. What this means is that the Supreme Court cannot just “overturn or create” a law randomly. They can only make a difference when court cases are brought before them, which limits their responsiveness compared to Congress or the president. Same as the other two branches, their decisions can be checked. The president can check the court by increasing the court size (which requires approval from Congress), which would then probably favor the President’s leanings. The President appoints new judges when others step down as well. Congress on the other hand is able to pass conflicting bills with the decisions of the Supreme Court, however this is not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to do.
Why Is This Important?
Because the first thing that you need to realize is that if you already didn’t know the information above, you probably didn’t know that the President is not necessarily the most powerful person in the government. While a president can pass executive orders to see his plans through, those can be overridden in four years.
So, during this past election season, when Bernie Sanders talked about “overturning this disastrous Citizen’s United bill”, one thing to realize is that he didn’t necessarily have the power to do so. He could have appointed a judge who was prone to overturn that decision, however, that judge would be useless until another case had been brought up dealing with election financial reform.
Without understanding the power of the president, you are not able to know that he alone cannot just overturn that decision. Same thing with Trump. He is not able to simply overturn Roe v. Wade. He can wait for another abortion case to come into the Supreme Court and hope that it gets overturned, but that is one of his only options.
This is what you need to realize here: Every portion of your government is important. If you were on Facebook or Twitter yelling about the 2016 Presidential Election, but you didn’t take the time to look into your local candidates and what they stood for, you missed out on the ability to make any real change. Honestly, you were lazy. Your president can be checked and balanced by the other branches of government, so you need to make sure that you are getting people to represent you in each branch.
But Don’t Get Me Wrong
The results of this election are interesting. Overwhelmingly, each branch of the government is now soon to be controlled by the Republican Party. What that means is the proper checks and balances may not be in place, because each branch will mostly likely support the other.
So, hopefully, you really understood and believed in what you voted for (we’ll talk more about this in part 2). I hope you made the right choice America.