THE POWERLESS PRESIDENDENCY! July 17, 2011Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
Could it be sans the 1776 War of Independence and the Constitution that the American President is merely a figure head, much like the British Monarch?
The truth, Fred Branfman suggests, is that the real decision power lies elsewhere, and that John McCain would have followed an identical course to that apparently drawn by Barack Obama, despite the three dimensional chess playing. Can this be the case? Admittedly, it is difficult to see how McCain would have changed the major decisions, and in that case the Democratic Party might have being the focus of opposition.
Based on those who knew him and his books, there is little reason to doubt that the pre-presidential Obama was a college professor-type who shared the belief system of his liberalish set: that ending climate change and reducing nuclear weapons were worthy goals, that it was important to “reset” U.S. policy toward the Muslim world, that torture and assassination were bad things, that Canadian-style single-payer health insurance made sense, that whistle-blowing and freedom of the press should be protected, Congress should have a say in whether the executive puts the nation into war, and that government should support community development and empowering poor communities.
Upon taking office, however, Obama—whatever his belief system at that point—found that he was unable to accomplish these goals for one basic reason: The president of the United States is far less powerful than media myth portrays. Domestic power really is in the hands of economic elites and their lobbyists, and foreign policy really is controlled by U.S. executive branch national security managers and a “military-industrial complex.” If a president supports their interests, as did Bush in invading Iraq, he or she can do a lot of damage. But, absent a crisis, a president who opposes these elites—as Obama discovered when he tried in the fall of 2009 to get the military to offer him an alternative to an Afghanistan troop surge—is relatively powerless.
Whether a Ronald Reagan expanding government and running large deficits in the 1980s despite his stated belief that government was the problem, or a Bill Clinton imposing a neoliberal regime impoverishing hundreds of millions in the Third World in the 1990s despite his rhetorical support for helping the poor, anyone who becomes president has little choice but to serve the institutional interests of a profoundly amoral and violent executive branch and the corporations behind them.
So long elected officials, regardless of the framework of the political system, act in deferential to the perceived power holders, such as media owners, and do not challenge them they disempower themselves and the electors. That seems to me to be the significance of the British Revolution, although one assumes the status quo will soon be resumed.
David Kaiser observes, after making the historical comparisons to the Weimar Republic, which granted extra powers to the president to overcome political gridlocks:
Politically Obama has been rather clever in trying to seize the center over the last few months, and he has won centrist pundits like David Brooks over to his side. If he could secure his grand bargain to include some (although not nearly enough) tax increases and entitlement cuts, he could actually bring the current crisis to an end, and that obviously is what he would like to do. The Republicans, however, are determined not to let him. They will neither give up their policies which will make the economy worse, nor give up their right to blame the President for everything. Whether that works depends on what happens to the economy and I am afraid that it may actually get worse. If it does, we may indeed find ourselves in January 2013 with President Romney or Bachmann or Perry in the White House and Republican majorities in both houses. That will mean the dismantling of the entire modern government of the United States, further economic catastrophe, and a very uncertain political future.
Whatever ever happened to the Bully Pulpit and a direct appeal to the good sense of the majority of voters, regardless of the partisan identifications?
Encompassing the full analysis, is elusive. As we know a four year term is evidence of failure. Successful presidents, such as George W Bush, have eight years of glory striding and posturing on the deck.Television broadcasting and production of advertising – the magic electoral means of success, never mind economic distress, such as unemployment, humiliation, and so forth – is expensive, so you have to appease the gods with the money. Then there is the startling proposition, advanced by Fred Branfman, of sheer incompetence. Meanwhile let us forget about the planet – where the industrial-sized killing machine is working a treat.