The sad decline of American democracy
By Scott Sumner
The Constitution says that only the Congress has the power to declare war, and the last time they did so was 1941. (Update: David Henderson informed me that 1942 was the last declaration of war by the US.) But that wasn’t the last
war time the US fought a war. Interestingly, at just about the time Congress stopped declaring war, the “Department of War” was relabeled as the “Department of Defense”.
Congress is supposed to approve treaties with foreign nations. But Congress never approved the nuclear deal with Iran.
Congress increasingly gives unelected regulators the power to legislate.
In 1930, President Hoover told the press it was Congress’s responsibility to determine what would be included in Smoot-Hawley. After WWII, presidents began negotiating trade deals, but always under the understanding that final approval from Congress was required. Now the Trump administration indicates that they will not even ask Congress to approve the new China trade deal.
The Democratic House and the Republican Senate recently voted to remove the US from involvement in the Yemen War, which is a humanitarian catastrophe comparable to the Iraq War. But the administration plans to ignore the will of Congress.
Congress refused to appropriate funds for a new border wall, but the Trump administration plans to ignore this vote and build the wall anyway.
These trends have been proceeding for decades, under both political parties. In recent years, the movement toward a more authoritarian form of government seems to be accelerating.
My conservative friends tell me that recent Supreme Court picks will uphold the original intent of the Constitution. I hope they are right, but I doubt it. I suspect they’ll uphold “conservative” forms of authoritarianism and reject liberal forms, and vice versa for liberal justices. Only voters can stop the slide toward authoritarianism, and voters actually seem to like what is happening.
PS. Which of the following four topics attracts the greatest amount of protest from millennials:
1. A 1984-style surveillance state being imposed on America.
2. Nearly 400,000 people unjustly imprisoned in the War on Drugs (mostly minorities.)
3. The horrific slaughter in Yemen, which we are contributing to.
4. The choice of Halloween costumes at Yale University.
PPS. Yes, lots of horrible things are also occurring in China, but Americans really do need to look in the mirror.