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Honored Social Butterfly

Trump's "Total Authority" Should Enrage Republicans - Instead They Shrugged

Trump's 'total authority' boast should've enraged Republicans. Instead they shrugged.
For decades, conservatives have pointed to the 10th Amendment as the very essence of decentralized government. Now, it's not clear what Trump's GOP supporters believe.
President Trump Meets With Healthcare Executives At The White House
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with health care executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Tuesday, April 14, 2020.Doug Mills / Pool via Getty Images
 
April 16, 2020, 3:30 AM CDT
By Charlie Sykes, editor-at-large of the Bulwark and MSNBC contributor

 

Two quotes, a month apart, neatly capture the essence of Donald Trump's presidency:

"No, I don't take responsibility at all."  March 13

 

"When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be. It's total."  April 13

 

There is something quintessentially Trumpian about the claim of total authority and zero responsibility. He alone can save us, he insists, but don't blame him if he doesn't.

There is something quintessentially Trumpian about the claim of total authority and zero responsibility. He alone can save us, he insists, but don’t blame him if he doesn’t.

So it was perhaps not surprising that the day after he claimed "total authority" over the decisions of state governments, he backed off. Instead, he said Tuesday night, he was "authorizing" the states to make their own decisions about reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, the states didn't need his authorization, but the appearance of Trump as the man in charge but not responsible had to be maintained.

 

For decades, conservatives have pointed to the 10th Amendment as the very essence of decentralized government. "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution," it declares, "nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This is where the states' inherent "police powers" come from, which include the power to oversee public safety during a pandemic.

 
Trump says he will 'authorize' governor to reopen their statesAPRIL 14, 202001:16

Until Trump, conservatives understood that. What they believe now seems less clear.

Bill Kristol has dubbed this "performative authoritarianism," which seems apt. Trump plays an authoritarian on television but seems uninterested in doing the hard work that "total authority" would involve. Actual executive action implies accountability. And Trump always wants someone else to blame.

So instead, he has pingponged back and forth from claiming that "I alone can fix it" to "It's up to the governors."

 

Even so, his assertion for a time on Monday that he had the absolute presidential power to override the nation's governors was striking. This isn't the first time Trump has claimed sweeping powers that don't exist. Back in 2019, when he was complaining about the Mueller probe, he insisted that Article II gave him "the right to do whatever I want as president."

 

This week his constitutional know-nothingism was again on proud display. When reporters asked Trump whether any governor agreed that he had total authority to countermand their orders, he answered: "I haven't asked anybody. Because you know why? I don't have to." When another reporter asked him to cite what constitutional provisions gave him the power to override governments that remained closed, Trump said, "Numerous provisions," but he didn't name any — because there are none.

He has no such power because the Constitution was explicitly designed to prevent that kind of absolutism. Indeed, that was whole point behind the separation of powers and federalism. James Madison was rather clear on that point, writing in "The Federalist Papers": "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

 

It doesn't take much effort to imagine how Republicans would have reacted if a Democratic president, say Barack Obama, had claimed "total authority" over the states. So the silence that greeted his declaration was telling.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was one of the very few Republicans to point out that the power of the federal government wasn't, in fact, absolute.

Liz Cheney
 
@Liz_Cheney
 

The federal government does not have absolute power.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” United States Constitution, Amendment X

 
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Man learns from history that man learns nothing from history.
Honored Social Butterfly

There should be a test for anyone who wants to run for President:  The US Constitution 101.  

Honored Social Butterfly


@ManicProgressive wrote:

There should be a test for anyone who wants to run for President:  The US Constitution 101.  


There should be the same test for governors, then all governors would be Democrats.


Man learns from history that man learns nothing from history.
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Liz Cheney
 
@LIZ_Cheney
 

The federal government does not have absolute power.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” United States Constitution, Amendment X

 
Liz CHENEY knows the TOTAL Power rests with the VICE President and she denounced her lesbian sister to be nominated by the bigoted GOPers of Wyoming.
 
As for the rest of the GOP, they worship POWER and will commit any outrage necessary to gain and keep it - they haven't allowed a single honest election in any State where they controlled the legislature and so long as Toad keeps doing harm to poor brown people, they'll follow him right thru the Gates of HEck
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