Over a period of years there has been an erosion of the Constitutional balance of power in the United States. This is related to an expansion of executive power, where presidents have exerted authority beyond the bounds outlined in the Constitution. This includes the use of executive orders to bypass Congress, the expansion of executive agencies with regulatory powers, and the assertion of broad national security powers, such as surveillance programs, drone strikes, and military interventions. The legislative branch, particularly Congress, has experienced a decline in  effectively checking executive power. Partisan gridlock, political polarization, and the influence of money in politics have hindered Congress’s capacity to act as a robust check on the executive branch. This has resulted in a diminished ability to pass meaningful legislation, conduct oversight, and hold the executive branch accountable.  While the judiciary is designed to act as a check on both the executive and legislative branches, courts  have taken an increasingly active role in shaping  partisan policy rather than strictly interpreting the Constitution.

These problems were  greatly enhanced when Donald Trump became President. He made evading the balance of power restrictions a goal in order to benefit the beliefs and interests of his supporters.  He was significantly aided by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell regarding judicial appointments. He was responsible for preventing President Obama from putting Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court. He is also responsible for holding open a seat for President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and shepherding through a second, Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The lack of  constitutional balance of power has resulted in Supreme Court judges  selected for their political and religious views. The court is divided into six judges whose judicial views are both religious and conservative and three who have progressive views. The result is unbalanced decisions.

I believe this constitutional crisis is not going to change unless we change three basic problems of our democracy. They are (1) impose a limit on political and judicial terms (2) impose strict limits on political and judicial campaign contributions, and (3)  impose time limits on allowing  campaigning for political or judicial office. The reasons for this are:

  1. Concentration of power: Without term limits, politicians can remain in office for extended periods, which can lead to a concentration of power. This can result in the entrenchment of a political class and make it difficult for new ideas and fresh perspectives to emerge. Term limits ensure a healthy turnover of elected officials and prevent the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of a few. When politicians can serve unlimited terms, they become less accountable to the public. With no looming re-election, they may be less inclined to respond to the needs and concerns of their constituents. Term limits create a system where politicians are more accountable to the people they represent and are encouraged to prioritize public interests over personal or party agendas.
  2. Corruption and undue influence: The absence of limits on campaign contributions can lead to corruption and the undue influence of wealthy individuals or interest groups on the political process. Without restrictions, candidates may become overly reliant on financial support from special interests, potentially compromising their independence and ability to act in the best interest of the public. Limiting campaign contributions helps prevent the perception or reality of political favors being granted in exchange for financial support. Unlimited spending on political campaigns can create an imbalanced electoral playing field. Wealthy candidates or those backed by wealthy donors have a significant advantage over others, making it harder for candidates without substantial financial resources to compete fairly. This undermines the principle of equal opportunity in democratic elections, where the strength of ideas and public support should be the determining factors, not the size of campaign war chest. When campaign spending is unrestricted, the voices of ordinary citizens are drowned out by powerful interests. The ability to run extensive and expensive campaigns could become a barrier for individuals without significant financial means, limiting the diversity of perspectives in the political sphere. This undermines the core democratic principle of ensuring that every citizen has an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.  When people perceive that their elected officials are serving their own interests or the interests of wealthy donors, rather than the public’s interest, it can erode trust in the democratic system.
  3. Extended campaigns are harmful Political campaigns are associated with high costs, especially in terms of campaign spending on advertising, staff salaries, and travel expenses. Limiting the length of campaigns can help reduce the financial burden on candidates and their supporters, leveling the playing field for individuals with fewer resources and promoting a more equitable electoral process. Lengthy campaigns consume significant amounts of time and energy for candidates, distracting them from their duties and responsibilities in public office. By shortening the campaign period, candidates can allocate more time to governing and fulfilling their commitments to the electorate. This ensures that elected officials can focus on policy implementation and effective governance. Shorter campaigns can enhance accessibility for candidates who may not have the financial means or resources to sustain a long-term campaign. It levels the playing field for newcomers, independent candidates, and individuals from less privileged backgrounds who may find it difficult to compete against established politicians with extensive resources. Limiting the campaign period allows for a more diverse and inclusive political landscape.

A lack of term limits, unrestricted campaign contributions, and unchecked time for campaigning contribute to a perception of a system that is influenced by money and elitism rather than the will of the people, leading to disillusionment and a decline in democratic participation. Our political and judicial dysfunction in this country is directly linked to the erosion of the balance of power required by our Constitution. Until that unbalance is corrected we will continue to have political and judicial gridlock and governmental disarray.

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