It’s worth noting, in the wake of three major national debates, that all four national candidates — Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan – seem to think of themselves as superheroes. Among other predictions, they suggest that they themselves will create jobs, jumpstart the economy, achieve energy independence, save Medicare and improve higher education.
In reality, on the domestic front, they’ll do nothing more nor less than execute the laws enacted by Congress and implement allowable government policies with the help of an overblown federal bureaucracy. At least, that’s all they’ll do if they abide by the Constitution. A president might seek, as President Obama has at various points throughout his presidency, to legislate through executive orders and extralegal regulations, but, even should the outcome of those orders and regulations be favorable on the create-utopia front, they’d still erode our much-cherished political system of separation of powers.
To put it more simply, the slick-sounding predictions and promises of Messrs. Obama, Romney, Biden and Ryan might be politically savvy, but they don’t exactly proceed from key American foundational assumptions about government and particularly the role of the executive. To keep all their promises, they’ll need a mighty amount of cooperation from the American people and Congress or they’ll have to skirt the system.
The power of the presidency has expanded way beyond what is called for in the Constitution. I think most of us -- well, a lot of us -- understand that most of the time. But in campaign season every four years we get caught up in the "what can they do for me?" mode about the candidates, so we legitimize the growth in the executive branch that we should be trying to tame. We're still a government of, for and by the people, but we need to remember the "by" part and celebrate it more vigorously.